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Yemen FM says seated next to Netanyahu in 'error'

Khaled al-Yamani said him being seated next to Netanyahu was a mistake [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 February, 2019

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Yemen's foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani said him being seated next to Netanyahu at the Warsaw summit was an error and affirmed the exiled Sana'a government's dedication to Palestine.

Yemen's top diplomat said a "protocol error" landed him next to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a conference in the Polish capital Warsaw and that his country's stance on the Palestinian issue remained unchanged.

"Protocol errors are the responsibility of the organisers, as is always the case in international conferences," Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani wrote on Twitter late Thursday.

Yamani was already seated when Netanyahu took his place earlier the same day at an international conference in Warsaw focused on security in the Middle East, with a strong emphasis on Iran. 

The two nodded at each other and exchanged brief smiles as Netanyahu sat down.

During a part of the session closed to the press, Yamani lent Netanyahu his microphone when the Israeli premier's was not working properly.

US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt hailed the exchange on Twitter, calling it a "lighthearted moment" that could be the sign of "new cooperation" between the Jewish and Arab states. 

Yemen and Israel have never had diplomatic relations, and Yamani's friendly interaction with Netanyahu drew criticism on social media.

"The stance of Yemen and President (Abedrabbo Mansour) Hadi on the Palestinian issue and its people and leadership is firm," Yamani insisted.

He said Yemen's attended the Warsaw conference not to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "but to mobilise the international community to confront the Iranian expansion in Yemen".

Its participation was also "part of the battle to restore" his internationally-recognised government, which is at war with Iran-backed Houthi rebels, he added.

Netanyahu called the Warsaw meeting as a "historical turning point", saying Israel and Arab states in attendance had stood united against Iran and he hoped that cooperation could extend to other areas.

Top officials of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain -- none of which recognise Israel -- sat down with Netanyahu for dinner Wednesday.

Israel only has diplomatic relations with two Arab states, neighbouring Egypt and Jordan. 

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