European leaders call for de-escalation as Iran retreats from nuclear deal

European leaders call for de-escalation as Iran retreats from nuclear deal
European leaders call for de-escalation as Iran retreats from nuclear deal

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The leaders of Britain, France, Germany on Sunday condemned recent attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and called for a de-scalation in the region, two days after the US killed Iran's most senior military general in an air strike in Baghdad.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke on Sunday amid heightening tensions in the Gulf following the killing of Qassem Soleimani in a US rocket strike at Baghdad International Airport on Friday.

"We have condemned the recent attacks on coalitions forces in Iraq and are gravely concerned by the negative role Iran has played in the region, including through the IRGC and the Al-Qods force under the command of General Soleimani," a joint statement from the three European states said.

"There is now an urgent need for de-escalation. We call on all parties to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility. The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped."

"We specifically call on Iran to refrain from further violent action or proliferation, and urge Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)," it added.

Earlier on Sunday, Iran said it planned to further roll back its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal signed with global powers, but intended to continue to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.

On Sunday, the country's state television cited a government statement as saying Iran would not respect any limits set down in the pact on the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges it could use.

This would mean that there would be no limit on Iran’s enrichment capacity, the level to which uranium could be enriched, or its nuclear research and development. These limits would now be based on Iran's technical needs.

But the report said Tehran’s rolling back of its nuclear commitments could be reversible if the US lifts its sanctions.

Iran has previously violated the terms of the 2015 deal enacted to limit its nuclear capacity. It says it is a response to renewed US sanctions on the country.

The US withdrew from the nuclear accord in 2018, but the other parties to the deal - the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia - have tried to preserve it.

But the recent attacks in Iraq have made relations increasingly fragile. The head of the Tehran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, was also killed in the strike on Friday that killed Soleimani – ordered by US President Donald .

Separately, The Associated Press reported that there were several air strikes that targeted Iraqi militias north of Baghdad on Friday. The US has, however, denied responsibility for those attacks.

The deaths of the two generals have brought tensions between Tehran and Washington to new heights. Iran has said it will respond to the US air strikes with “harsh revenge”. Already, several rockets launched in Baghdad late on Saturday fell inside or near the Green Zones, which houses government offices and foreign offices, including the US embassy.

Some 5,000 US troops remain in Iraq, most in an advisory role. But earlier on Sunday, Iraq’s parliament voted in favour of the expulsion of foreign troops from the country.

In their statement on Sunday, the three European leaders warned that another crisis in Iraq could jeopardise years of efforts to achieve stability in the country.

The three countries re-affirmed their commitment to continue the fight against ISIS, before urging the Iraqi authorities to continue providing the coalition forces with support.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Johnson said that Suleimani had a destabilising effect on the Middle East – but he warned threats of reprisals would only lead to more violence.

“General Qassem Suleimani posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region,” Mr Johnson said in a statement.

“Given the leading role he has played in actions that have led to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and western personnel, we will not lament his death.

“It is clear however that all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region and they are in no one’s interest.”

Updated: January 6, 2020 04:42 AM

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