The Latest: Qatari minister warns of remaining IS threat
MUNICH (AP) — The Latest on the Munich Security Conference (all times local):
Qatar’s foreign minister is cautioning that the Islamic State group will continue to be a threat even after its last pocket of resistance in Syria is shut down.
IS once controlled territory in large parts of Syria and Iraq, but steadily lost ground to Syrian forces.
An operation is now underway to squeeze the extremist group’s fighters out of their last redoubt in eastern Syria.
But Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that doesn’t mean the final defeat for the group also known as ISIS.
He said: “There are territories being liberated, but ISIS or terrorism is not defeated yet, because the ideology is still there, the people are still there and the causes of recruitment are still valid.”
The U.S. envoy for Syria says his country’s withdrawal from Syria will not be “abrupt” and that Washington is working to ensure allies don’t feel “under-consulted.”
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria angered some allies, confounded U.S. military officials and prompted Jim Mattis to resign as defense secretary.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, U.S. envoy James Jeffrey said the Trump administration has told allies “continuously since mid-December that ... this is not going to be an abrupt or a rapid withdrawal. It’s going to be an orderly, step-by-step withdrawal.”
Jeffrey added: “We are consulting very carefully and very closely with them. If they felt that they weren’t consulted enough initially, we are doing our very, very best night and day, believe me, to ensure that they don’t feel under-consulted right now.”
The leading challenger to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there will be no appeasement of Iran if he is elected.
Benny Gantz spoke Sunday at the Munich Security Conference after a speech by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He told the audience of world leaders and defense experts: “do not be deceived by his eloquence, do not be fooled by his lies.”
Gantz, a former Israeli military chief, slammed Iranian aggression in the region.
He told the conference: “On my watch, there will be no appeasement. On my watch, Iran will not threaten Israel by taking over Syria, Lebanon or Gaza strip. On my watch, Iran will not have nuclear weapons.”
Iran’s foreign minister says European nations need to do more than talk if they want to preserve a deal meant to keep Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the treaty.
Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that a barter-type system known as INSTEX set up last month by France, Germany and Britain to allow businesses to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran, and thereby evade possible U.S. sanctions, is not enough.
Zarif says “INSTEX falls short of the commitments by the (European countries) to save the nuclear deal. Europe needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against a dangerous tide of U.S. unilateralism.”
Iran’s foreign minister is blasting the United States’ “unhealthy fixation” with his country and condemning the Trump administration’s efforts to press European countries to pull out of the nuclear agreement with Tehran.
Mohammad Javad Zarif addressed the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, a day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence prodded European powers Germany, France and Britain to follow Washington in withdrawing from the deal and to “stop undermining U.S. sanctions.”
The U.S. withdrew unilaterally last year from the 2015 agreement, which offers Iran sanctions relief for limiting its nuclear program.
Zarif says “we have long been the target of an unhealthy fixation, let’s say obsession” from the U.S. He said Pence “arrogantly demanded that Europe must join the United States in undermining its own security and breaking its obligations.”
10 p.m. Saturday
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has drawn lengthy applause for her spirited defense of a multilateral approach to global affairs and her support for Europe’s decision to stand by a nuclear deal with Iran.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was not impressed, however, and he doubled down on American criticism of Europe.
Merkel’s comments Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of world leaders and top defense and foreign policy officials, followed days of acrimony between the U.S. and Europe over Iran.
Merkel told the group that she shared American concerns about Iranian efforts to increase its power. But she defended the nuclear deal as an important channel to Tehran, stressing the need for international diplomacy.
Germany, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union have been trying to keep the 2015 deal with Iran alive since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of it last year.