China, Germany, Britain Urge De-escalation After US Strike, Russia Offers ‘Condolences’

Countries heavily involved in the Middle East reacted to the United States taking out top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, including China, Russia, and Germany.

“Sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity should be respected. The peace and stability in the gulf area and Middle East should be maintained,” Geng Shuang, spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of China, said in a statement.

“We urge all sides, especially the United States, to be restrained and calm and avoid further escalation of the situation.”

Iraqi President Barham Salih also urged restraint, telling NBC: “The situation in Iraq is very fragile, very precarious. I urge restraint on all sides. Iraq cannot be condemned to another cycle of violence. We have had too many wars over the last four decades.”

Ulrike Demmer, a German government spokeswoman, said the United States was just reacting to Iranian provocations.

“The American action was a reaction to a series of military provocations for which Iran is responsible,” she told reporters at a press conference.

“We also see with great concern Iran’s activities in the region. We stand before a dangerous escalation,” she added. Germany will try to de-escalate the situation, she said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he spoke to a number of world leaders about the airstrike, including the foreign ministers of China, Britain, and Germany, making clear that the United States remains committed to de-escalation, according to Department of State spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

Britain Foreign Minister Dominic Raab urged “all parties to de-escalate,” adding that “further conflict is in none of our interests.”

A burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early Jan. 3, 2020. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)

A Russian Foreign Ministry source told the Russian News Agency TASS that “we consider Soleimani’s murder in a U.S. missile strike at the suburbs of Baghdad an adventurous step that will lead to growing tensions throughout the region.”

“Soleimani devotedly served the cause of protecting Iran’s national interests. We are offering our sincere condolences to the Iranian people,” the source added.

French politician Amelie de Montchalin said: “We have woken up to a more dangerous world,” adding that President Emmanuel Macron would consult soon with “players in the region.”

Israel, meanwhile, placed its military on heightened alert and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned early from a trip outside the country after Soleimani’s killing.

“Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security, and self-defense,” Netanyahu told reporters.

Israel has long regarded Soleimani as a major threat. In August last year, the military said it had foiled a Quds Force attack administered by Soleimani, involving multiple drones from Syria.

In Gaza, Hamas—which has long enjoyed financial and military support from Tehran—condemned Soleimani’s killing and sent its “dearest condolences” to Iran. Gaza-based Hamas official Bassem Naim wrote on Twitter that the assassination “opens the doors of the region to all possibilities, except calm & stability. USA bears the responsibility for that.”

On Twitter, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the assassination of Soleimani “an extremely dangerous and foolish escalation.”

“The U.S. bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism,” he said.

The Syrian government also condemned the killing. A foreign ministry official told SANA, a state news agency, that the country is “certain that this cowardly US aggression… will only strengthen determination to follow in the path of the resistance’s martyred leaders.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Author: Zachary Stieber