Rouhani says Iran doesn’t want ‘new tensions’ in Middle East

Iranian president strikes conciliatory tone in phone call with German chancellor, who tells him she condemns missile attack on Israel

Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, May 8, 2018. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, May 8, 2018. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iran does not want “new tensions” in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic’s president Hassan Rouhani said Thursday in a telephone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, his first remarks following a reported Iranian missile attack on Israel and a devastating IDF response.

“Iran has always sought to reduce tensions in the region, trying to strengthen security and stability,” Rouhani said, according to a statement on the website of Iran’s presidency.

Rouhani did not mention Israel’s strikes Thursday against Iranian targets in Syria, or the Revolutionary Guard’s missile barrage toward the Golan Heights.

Merkel condemned the rocket attack on Israeli positions during the conversation with Rouhani, her office said in a statement, “and called on Iran to contribute to deescalation in the region.”

She also reaffirmed European powers’ continued support for the Iran nuclear deal, from which US President Donald Trump withdrew on Tuesday.

Merkel’s office said she underlined the support of Germany, France, and Britain for the nuclear deal so long as Tehran continues to fulfill its obligations under that agreement. Merkel advocated opening talks with Iran on its ballistic missile programs and its activities in countries such as Syria and Yemen.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the media during a joint statement with the President of the Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, as part of a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Iranian forces fired some 20 rockets at northern Israeli military bases from southern Syria just after midnight on early Tuesday. The IDF said it suffered no casualties, either on the ground or in the air, and that no rockets fired from Syria made impact in Israeli territory.

The IDF hit over 50 targets in Syria in overnight strikes in response, including Iranian intelligence sites, logistic centers, weapons depots, and military bases operated by the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.

The exchange was the largest-ever direct clash between the Iranian forces and the IDF, and appeared to be the largest exchange involving Israel in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Earlier Thursday, Merkel said that the latest hostilities in Syria were a matter of “war and peace” for the region.

A photo provided by the pro-regime Syrian Central Military Media shows anti-aircraft fire rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, after the Israeli military says Iranian forces launched a rocket barrage against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights, in the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Germany condemned the Iranian attack, stressing Israel’s right to defend itself. At the same time, Berlin said it was important not to let the situation escalate.

“We note reports of Iranian rocket attacks on Israeli military bases with great concern,” a spokesperson for Germany’s Foreign Ministry said. “These attacks are a serious provocation that we strongly condemn. As we have always emphasized, Israel has a right to self-defense.

“At the same time, it is crucial that there is no further escalation,” the spokesperson continued. “In particular, this means that we must do everything we can to finally achieve a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict — to end the suffering of the Syrian people, but also so as not to jeopardize stability in the entire region.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May appealed to Russia to use its influence to stop any further offensives.

A spokesman for the prime minister told reporters, “We condemn Iran’s attack on Israel. Israel has every right to defend itself.”

He added, “We call on Iran to refrain from any further attacks and for calm on all sides. We call on Russia to use its influence in Syria to prevent further Iranian attacks.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, called for dialogue between Israel and Iran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a meeting with his Dutch counterpart in Moscow on April 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)

“This is a very disturbing trend. We proceed from the fact that all issues should be solved through dialogue,” Lavrov said at a press conference, adding that Moscow had warned Israel to avoid “all actions that could be seen as provocative.”

The Israeli army said Thursday morning that it had coordinated with Russia its strikes in Syria, which it said set back Iranian military capabilities in the country by “many months.”

Those followed the firing of some 20 rockets at Israeli military bases on the Golan Heights by Iranian forces from southern Syria.

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