European leaders have called for a deescalation of tensions between the United States and Iran after a U.S. strike in Iraq killed Qassem Soleimani, the most important Iranian military commander.
French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone Friday morning, according to his office.
France, which has been trying to broker an easing of tensions between the U.S. and Iran since June, called for cool heads. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian discussed the killing of the general with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“France calls on everyone to exercise restraint, and on Iran to avoid any measure that could possibly aggravate regional instability, or lead to a serious nuclear proliferation crisis,” Le Drian said in a statement, sending a clear warning to Iran ahead of its upcoming planned announcement of new violations of the Iran nuclear deal.
The statement also explicitly reiterated the legitimate grounds upon which the presence of U.S. and European forces are present in Iraq, in an attempt to hedge against possible Iraqi demands that these forces withdraw.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also spoke with Pompeo and criticised the U.S. operation against Soleimani.
“The U.S. military operation followed a series of dangerous provocations by Iran. However, this action has not made it easier to reduce tensions. I made this point clearly to @SecPompeo as well,” Maas tweeted.
“The American action was a reaction to a series of military provocations for which Iran carries responsibility,” said German government spokesperson Ulrike Demmer. “We also see with great concern Iran’s activities in the region. We are facing a dangerous escalation … It is precisely at this point that we need to deescalate.”
“The cycle of violence, provocations and retaliations which we have witnessed in Iraq over the past few weeks has to stop. Further escalation must be avoided at all cost,” said European Council President Charles Michel in a statement. “The risk is a generalised flare up of violence in the whole region and the rise of obscure forces of terrorism that thrive at times of religious and nationalist tensions.”
The Dutch foreign ministry advised its citizens to “leave Baghdad if this is possible in a safe way,” saying “the situation is unpredictable” in a tweet Friday morning.
The U.K. also called for deescalation, while underlining the threat the Iranian general posed.
“We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani. Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab said in a statement.
Read more via Politico