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France, Germany, UK double down on efforts to de-escalate Iran tensions

Boris Johnson (L), Angela Merkel (C) and Emmanuel Macron (R) agreed to cooperate towards reducing tensions in the Middle East after an American drone killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Friday 3 January 2020.
Boris Johnson (L), Angela Merkel (C) and Emmanuel Macron (R) agreed to cooperate towards reducing tensions in the Middle East after an American drone killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Friday 3 January 2020. (REUTERS)

EU leaders have urged restraint on all sides over the volatile situation with Iran, as Nato ambassadors met in Brussels. In a phone call to US President Donald Trump, France’s Emmanuel Macron expressed "total support" with its allies, while urging Iran to avoid “destabilising” action, as Tehran announced its fifth step back from the 2015 nuclear deal.

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President Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime minister Boris Johnson agreed to cooperate towards reducing tensions in the Middle East after an US drone strike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Friday.

“It is crucial now to de-escalate. We call on all the players involved to show utmost restraint and responsibility. The cycle of violence in Irak must stop,” the three leaders said in a joint statement published on Sunday.

They called on Iran to refrain from further violent action or proliferation, and urge Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with the JCPOA (nuclear deal).

On Sunday evening, Iran announced its fifth step back from the deal, saying it will forgo a "limit on the number of centrifuges" while stressing it would continue cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran will no longer abide by any of the restrictions imposed by the 2015 nuclear agreement, particularly its capacity for enrichment, the level of enrichment or the stock of enriched material.

French diplomatic efforts

Following a telephone conversation with US President Trump, Macron expressed his “total support” towards its allies within the US-led coalition, namely in the context of recent attacks by armed groups against premises of the Global Coalition against the Islamic State group (IS) in Iraq.

His expression of solidarity comes a day after Iraq's parliament voted overwhelmingly to expel foreign forces from the country, with many MPs and people on the street outraged by the US strike that killed General Soleimani.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke to Iraq’s Prime minister, Adel Abdel-Mahdi on Sunday, stressing the importance preserving the US-led coalition coalition in Iraq and Syria.

Le Drian also spoke with Wang Yi, his counterpart in China, which is among the signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal. Both China and France expressed a common goal towards appeasing tensions and calling on Iran not to violate the Vienna accord. 

No lament, says Boris

The UK's Boris Johnson said Britain “will not lament” the death of Qassem Soleimani, blaming him for “the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and western personnel”.

Johnson added that calls for retaliation would lead to more violence in the region.

UK’s Foreign Affairs minister, Dominic Raab, earlier backed the Trump administration’s “right to self-defence” in carrying out the airstrike against Soleimani at Baghdad airport last Friday. Pompeo has accused European allies of not being “helpful enough” after the assassination.

Raab is to meet US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in Wasgington on Thursday 9 January.

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