Yemen’s top diplomat said a “protocol error” landed him next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 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 organizers, 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.
A lighthearted moment- @netanyahu microphone was not working so FM of Yemen loaned him his microphone. @Netenyahu joked about the new cooperation between Israel and Yemen. Step by step… 😁👍 #WarsawSummit
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) February 14, 2019
Yemen and Israel have never had diplomatic relations, and Yemani’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 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 mobilize the international community to confront the Iranian expansion in Yemen”.
Its participation was also “part of the battle to restore” his internationally-recognized 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.
Israel only has diplomatic relations with two Arab states, neighboring Egypt and Jordan.