The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, issued a personal invitation to his counterpart in Tehran in a desperate bid to de-escalate the tensions in the Middle East. But key member states – Germany, France and the departing United Kingdom – refused to shed a tear for the death of General Soleimani, the second most influential man in Iran. He was assassinated in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump, who has claimed the military leader posed a threat to his country’s interests in the Middle East.
In a statement, the EU said Mr Borrell had shared a telephone call with Mr Zarif to discuss the tensions in the Middle East.
The bloc said: “Josep Borrell expressed his deep concern about the latest increase of violent confrontations in Iraq, including the killing of General Qassem Soleimani.
“He urged Iran to exercise restraint and carefully consider any reaction to avoid further escalation, which harms the entire region and its people.
“The High Representative offered his full engagement to contribute to de-escalation. He stressed that ultimately, a regional political solution was the only way forward and that the EU was ready to support this.”
Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron side with UK as EU invites Iran to Brussels
Boris Johnson refused to ‘lament’ the death of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani
During the call, Mr Borrell urged Iran to preserve the nuclear accord, which lifts sanctions in return for Tehran halting its nuclear programmes, after the country pulled out.
Despite the warm embrace from Brussels, London, Berlin and Paris decided to take a difference approach following a weekend of threats of war.
Boris Johnson said that “we will not lament” the killing of General Soleimani after returning from a 12-day holiday in the Caribbean.
The Prime Minister said: “General Qasem Soleimani posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has invited his Iranian counterpart to Brussels
“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. We are in close contact with all sides to encourage de-escalation.”
Mr Johnson had phone calls with EU heavyweights French President Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, as well as President Trump upon his return.
Mr Macron “expressed his preoccupation concerning the destabilising activities of the Quds Force under the authority of Qasem Soleimani, and reiterated the need for Iran to end them now and abstain from any military escalation that could further aggravate regional instability,” according to an Elysee Palace after a call with his American counterpart.
Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq
The airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani
A joint statement by London, Paris and Berlin insisted it is Iran that should now move to de-escalate the tensions and show a degree of restraint after the US airstrikes.
“We specifically call on Iran to refrain from further violent action or proliferation, and urge Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with the JCPOA,” the statement said.
A senior Commander in the Quds Force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s foreign arm, has warned that British soldiers in the Middle East could become “collateral damage” in attack on US personnel.
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“Our forces will retaliate and target US troops in the Middle East without any concern about killing its allies, including UK troops, as this has turned into a fully fledged war with much collateral damage expected,” the commander told the Times.
“We are very clear and have identified our targets and will fight with Americans.
“We request UK, the key US ally, and other western allies including the Nato alliance, to not stand with this Trump regime, to avoid wider collateral damage in Iran’s response as it conducts foreign military operations against the US after Soleimani’s assassination.”