Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that US plans to increase its troop presence in the Middle East were aimed at provoking armed conflict.
Such actions “cannot be seen otherwise than as a deliberate course to provoke war,” Ryabkov told journalists, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency.
He said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while visiting Russia last month had stated that US troops were in the region not to start a war, but prevent it.
“If that’s the case, the US should refrain from further reinforcement of its presence and from other steps, including dragging and pushing its allies in various parts of the world into stepping up pressure on Iran,” Ryabkov said.
The Kremlin also called for restraint to avoid escalation in the Middle East.
“We are urging all the sides to show restraint,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists in response to a question on the deployment.
“We would prefer not to see any steps that could introduce additional tensions in the already unstable region.”
Commenting on Iran’s declared plan to increase uranium enrichment beyond limits set in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal Peskov said Tuesday that “our starting point is still that Iran will remain within the framework of the nuclear deal and will maintain adherence to its obligations.”
Iran on Monday announced that it will surpass the uranium-stockpile limit set by the nuclear deal in the next 10 days, raising pressure on Europeans trying to save the accord a year after the US withdrawal lit the fuse for the heightened tensions now between Tehran and Washington.
Hours later the United States said it had approved the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the troops were being sent “for defensive purposes” as the US has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since the US last year quit the multi-nation nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran, a close ally of Russia.