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Europe and Eurasia: Remarks at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East

FOREIGN MINISTER CZAPUTOWICZ: Prime ministers, ministers, ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to welcome you at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East. The right time has come now to give a new impetus to the questions of peace and security in the region. The Middle East is a special place on the world map, the place where three great religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – were born; a place from which the Indo-European civilization originated; a very rich area both culturally and economically; but too often plagued with numerous conflicts resulting in negative consequences such as refugee crisis, economic crisis, or, in some instances, crisis of statehood.

Stabilization of the Middle East, termination of ongoing conflicts, promoting cultural coexistence, and building inclusive societies – these are all great challenges. It is a task for the international community to effectively support these efforts to safeguard stabilization and durable peace. There are multiple sources of conflicts in the Middle East. They may originate from wish of some leaders to keep power at all costs, or from religious fundamentalism and lack of tolerance, or from systemic factors such as imbalance of power and geopolitical rivalry of external actors. They can also stem from interference of regional powers.

The European Union and the United States share the conviction about the role of Iran could and should play in the Middle East and in the wider world, but we are concerned about possible results of Iran’s nuclear program as well as the unconstructive role of the country in the region. We univocally condemn intolerable actions of Iran beyond its own territory, including Europe, which met with additional EU sanctions.

The differences between us may be about methods. The European Union believes that maintaining the peaceful character of the Iranian nuclear program calls for keeping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, in place. The United States abandoned this agreement and imposed sanctions. But in our opinion, in the opinion of Poland, it is only through joint actions in the framework of trans-Atlantic community or, more broadly, the global community of democratic states that we can effectively limit negative trends in the Middle East.

Ladies and gentlemen, many of you can ask the question: Why Poland together with the United States organizes this conference in Warsaw? We believe that Poland has a special right to serve the international community as a place for dialogue. We serve as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and by that virtue, a special responsibility rests upon us to contribute to actions aimed at preserving peace. We are the country where the Solidarity movement was born and where a peaceful, bloodless political transformation to democracy took place. This example was followed by other countries of our region, leading to a spectacular end of the Cold War. We will soon celebrate the 30th anniversary of those memorable events. We believe that our experience can be of great value for other regions as well, and we are ready to share our experience.

Poland has never turned a blind eye to the necessities of the societies living in the Middle East. The Polish armed forces participated in the liberation of Kuwait in 1990. Our servicemen helped bring peace and stabilization in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. We participated for many years in the peacekeeping missions in the Golan Heights, Sinai, and south Lebanon. Poland has been supporting the fight against ISIS as a member of Global Coalition; we discussed about that issue last week in Washington.

Ladies, gentlemen, yesterday we had an opportunity to listen to the representatives of the region who remind us of the challenges the Middle East is currently facing. Today we are going to continue the discussion on the methods of resolution of existing conflicts, especially the conflict in Syria and Yemen, which show us clearly, due to their complicated nature, how easily societies can fall prey to confrontational ideologies. We will also reflect on the current status and prospect for the peace process. These and other issues will be tackled during the opening plenary.

The working lunch will be followed and will be devoted to humanitarian and refugee challenges. We will discuss the methods the international community can use to improve the situation in this area. So we will look – we would like to look at this region also in a positive way, look how we can contribute to peace, to stabilization. In the afternoon we will discuss the ways to limit proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region, as well as cybersecurity, new challenges to energy security, and illegal financing of terrorism.

These three very concrete questions have a long history of international deliberations and creating legal regimes. Much has been done, but we are convinced that the Middle East deserves a special attention. Following this conference, specialized working groups should be established. We would like to start the process – we can call it Warsaw process, maybe – to create a special multilateral platform for dialogue which will be of permanent character and will lead to a stronger institutionalization of cooperation in the Middle East.

Ladies, gentlemen, our conference starts a week after the historic visit of Pope Francis in the Middle East. We want to be guided by the same spirit of optimism that the Pope always shows. If we manage to achieve that at that conference, its aim will be fulfilled. Thank you very much for your attention, and I am giving the floor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, co-host of the conference.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you, Foreign Minister Czaputowicz. (Applause.) Thank you. Good morning. Welcome to everyone. It’s wonderful to see such a big group that the far end strains my old-man’s vision to see you. We’re so pleased to host the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East. Thank you for co-hosting. Our two countries now are celebrating 100 years of diplomatic relations and our joint efforts reflect the strength of the bonds between our two countries.

My personal affection for Poland has always been great; it became even greater when President Duda spoke of my alma mater at West Point back in 2017. It was there he made one of – frankly, one of the most important statements of our time. He said, “Go Army, beat Navy.” (Laughter.)

Look, we’re delighted to see so many countries here. NATO, the European Union – thank you for joining us as well. It’s a historic gathering of a very diverse set of countries. It’s a broad cross-section of participants that shows the magnitude of the challenges we face, but also the commitment that each of our nations has made to tackling these challenges together. As a testament to our seriousness of purpose, I want to reflect on the historic dinner that took place last night. Arab and Israeli leaders were in the same room, sharing a meal and exchanging views. They all came together for a single reason: to discuss the real threats to our respective peoples emanating from the Middle East. The United States seeks a new era of cooperation between all of our countries on how to confront these issues. It’s why we’ve organized this ministerial.

The composition of that dinner reflects President Trump’s diplomatic commitment to bring nations together in new ways to solve old problems. That’s our mission today, and I hope each of us will take it seriously. Both the United States and Poland understand that every country attending this ministerial will have different perspectives. At times, such views may even conflict with those of the United States. We see this as a value-added proposition. We want to bring together countries with an interest in stability to share their views and break out of traditional thinking.

I’d like to put out some thoughts and guidelines for our engagement. No one country will dominate the discussion today nor will any one issue dominate our talks. Everyone should speak thoughtfully and honestly and each country should respect the voice of all others. Our hope that this engagement – our hope is that this engagement will entail true back-and-forth dialogue, not just a chance to do what I’m doing now: read a prepared statement. Please – I’ll do this too when I complete these remarks – leave your notecards and speeches in your briefcase or your purse. Let’s have a candid conversation.

Look, in terms of the agenda, we’ll lead off with a discussion on Yemen led by Foreign Minister al-Yamani. I will then detail the Trump administration’s next steps on Syria and our continuing efforts to achieve our strategic goals, which haven’t changed. And after that Senior Advisor to the President Mr. Kushner will discuss the administration’s efforts to advance a lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians. There’ll be lots of opportunity for questions, comments on all of these topics. And then at lunch Vice President Pence and the prime minister will offer remarks, as will seven other foreign ministers. And a little later we’ll hear from my co-host as he leads a working lunch with a group of nations on addressing humanitarian and refugee challenges, which are all too real. Then we’ll have a series of action planning sessions on curbing missile development and proliferation, combating cyber and emerging threats, and countering terrorism and illicit finance. Representatives from an array of countries will contribute their thoughts as panelists in each one of those sessions.

Our talks are important today, but this conference won’t be the end. It can’t be. We need action. Syria, Yemen, proliferation, the peace process, terrorism, Iran, cybersecurity, the humanitarian crises – none of the region’s challenges will solve themselves. We must work together for security. No country can afford to remain on the sidelines, so allow today to be the start of our conversation.

As I said in Cairo a few weeks ago, the United States will continue to lead on Middle East security issues. We will continue to be a force for good in the region, and today is proof of that commitment. We hope new partnerships emerge from today’s talks. We need to be bound – we need not be bound by the past when a bright future demands new cooperation. Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister.

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