Key US allies push to deescalate crisis with Iran after top general killed
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Key US allies push to deescalate crisis with Iran after top general killed

French president urges Tehran to avoid ‘military escalation that could aggravate instability in the region’ following death of Soleimani

(L-R) Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and President of the European Council Donald Tusk pose during a G7 coordination meeting with the Group of Seven European members at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, southwestern France on August 24, 2019. (Markus Schreiber/POOL/AFP)
(L-R) Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and President of the European Council Donald Tusk pose during a G7 coordination meeting with the Group of Seven European members at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, southwestern France on August 24, 2019. (Markus Schreiber/POOL/AFP)

German, French and British leaders agreed on Sunday to work together to deescalate the situation in the Middle East, where tensions have been high since an American drone killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, a German government spokesman said.

Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s Quds Force, was killed in an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport on Sunday.

“The Chancellor (Angela Merkel), the French President (Emmanuel Macron) and the British Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) have agreed to work together to reduce tensions in the region,” the spokesman said after Merkel had spoken by telephone with her British and French counterparts.

The three leaders “agree that deescalation is now urgent,” added the spokesman. “Iran in particular is urged to exercise restraint in the current circumstances,” he said.

The wreckage of an American airstrike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3, 2020. (Social media)

Macron on Sunday assured US counterpart Donald Trump of “his complete solidarity” and urged Iran to avoid “military escalation that could aggravate instability in the region.”

Macron noted “mounting tensions in Iraq and in the region,” and expressed concern that Iranian forces that were commanded by Soleimani could take actions that would destabilize the region, in a statement issued by the Elysee presidential office.

The French president “reiterated the necessity that Iran put an end” to such activities.

“The priority should be pursuing international coalition action against Daesh, with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, for its security and for regional stability,” Macron said, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State group.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the Brexit debate on The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill in the House of Commons in London, Friday Dec. 20, 2019 (House of Commons via AP)

Britain’s Johnson, who also spoke with Trump, issued a similar statement on Sunday.

“General Qassem Soleimani posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilizing behavior in the region,” he said. “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,” he continued, “that all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region and they are in no one’s interest.

“We are in close contact with all sides to encourage deescalation,” Johnson said. “I will be speaking to other leaders and our Iraqi friends to support peace and stability. The Foreign Secretary has been in constant contact with leaders and foreign ministers from across the globe and we have taken steps to increase the security of our personnel and interests in the region.”

Friday’s airstrike was praised by US President Donald Trump’s Republicans and close ally Israel but UK officials were said to be irked that they were not warned by the US ahead of the airstrike. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reportedly not forewarned, even though there are hundreds of British soldiers stationed in the region.

British officials were caught “by surprise” and angered by the airstrike, The Telegraph reported on Saturday.

Macron urged restraint immediately after the strike, telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that there should be no “new dangerous escalation of tensions” and calling “on all the parties to act with restraint.”

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