French President Emmanuel Macron agreed with his Iraqi counterpart on Saturday to make efforts to dampen tensions in the Middle East after Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US air strike, reported Reuters.
“The two presidents agreed to remain in close contact to avoid any further escalation in tensions and in order to act to ensure stability in Iraq and the broader region,” Macron’s office said of his telephone discussion with Iraqi President Barham Salih.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people marched in Baghdad to mourn Iran’s military chief Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, after the two were killed in a US air strike which has raised the spectre of wider conflict in the Middle East.
Macron also discussed Middle East developments with the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The two leaders underlined the importance of fighting Daesh and dealing with the political crisis in Libya, Macron’s office said.
Earlier on Saturday, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he had discussed the situation in the Middle East with his German foreign minister Heiko Maas and senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi.
Le Drian said:
We all noted in particular our agreement in the importance of preserving the stability and sovereignty of Iraq, and the whole of the region in general, as well as the need for Iran to avoid any new violation of the Vienna Agreement
Under the 2015 Vienna agreement, most international sanctions against Tehran were lifted in 2016, in exchange for limitations on Iran’s nuclear work. US President Donald Trump’s administration however pulled out of the deal.
Qassem Soleimani was the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the mastermind of its regional security strategy. He was killed early Friday near the Baghdad international airport along with senior Iraqi militants in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump. The attack has caused regional tensions to soar and tested the US alliance with Iraq. Fearing escalation, NATO has suspended it’s training activities in Iraq, while the British Navy has committed to escort every UK-flagged ship across the Straits of Hormuz.
Showing no signs of seeking to reduce tensions, the US president has since issued a stern threat to Iran on Twitter, saying that the US has targeted 52 Iranian sites that it would strike if Iran attacks Americans or US assets in response to the US drone strike that killed Soleimani. He later added that the US will use ‘new’ equipment to strike Iran.
The US strike on Soleimani’s convoy at Baghdad airport also killed Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and it raised the specter of wider conflict in the Middle East.