Iran’s shooting down of a US military surveillance drone has set Tehran and Washington on a collision course, prompting global alarm and a plea for both countries to refrain from unsheathing “weapons of war”.
The calls for de-escalation came as US President Donald Trump, in a Twitter post on Friday, confirmed he had blocked a retaliatory attack against Iran.
“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights,” Trump tweeted, adding: “10 minutes before the strikes I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”
US-Iran tensions have increased since Trump withdrew Washington from a landmark nuclear deal that curbed Tehran’s nuclear programme last year and reimposed punishing economic sanctions.
Here’s how the world reacted to the latest frictions:
Russia accused the US of deliberately stoking dangerous tensions with Iran and pushing the situation to “the brink of war”.
In comments carried by state–run RIA Novosti news agency on Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called on Washington to weigh the possible consequences of conflict with Iran, warning rising tensions were extremely dangerous.
Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, also urged all sides to show restraint.
“The situation in the Persian Gulf is very tense. We are extremely concerned about it, we’re following the situation carefully and we call on all sides involved to show restraint.”
European Council President Donald Tusk said the bloc is urging restraint on both sides, and rejected suggestions the EU should speak more loudly in the dispute.
“The biggest problems in our history [were] always provoked by too active politics, not too passive,” he said at the end of an EU summit in Brussels. The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, was in regular contact with the two capitals, Tusk added.
A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday the United Kingdom was in regular contact with the US over the situation with Iran.
“We have said continuously that we are calling for de-escalation on all sides and have long made clear our issues with Iran’s activity,” the spokeswoman said. “We don’t believe escalation would be in any party’s interest and continue to talk to the US and our partners.”
French President Emmanuel Macron urged restraint, saying Paris was keen to keep the embattled Iran nuclear alive.
“I am very keen on avoiding an escalation of tensions in the region,” he said.
“We need an agenda with Iran and our partners in the region that allows us to find a solution to this crisis, we need to continue to frame the Iranian nuclear activities, to go further in time, but we must avoid the escalation of tensions,” he said, adding: “So I invite all the parties to reason, to calm down and to discuss.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for dialogue, saying: “Naturally, we are worried about the situation and we’re counting on diplomatic negotiations for a political solution to a very tense situation.”
Earlier on Friday, a spokeswoman for Merkel said Berlin welcomed reports that Trump apparently decided against immediate military attack.
“Regarding President Trump, I can say that there are numerous statements and indications that the American president would like to avoid a military confrontation and we naturally welcome that,” Merkel’s spokeswoman Martina Fietz said.
Separately on Friday, Alessandra Vellucci, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on the escalating situation in the Gulf: “I have only one strong recommendation – nerves of steel.”
Her comments came after UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday that Guterres was “very concerned” in the wake of the drone incident and called on all parties to “avoid any action that could inflame the situation”.
Dujarric added the secretary-general stressed again “that the world cannot afford a major conflict in that area”.
A Vatican cardinal begged US and Iran to step back from escalating tensions and called for friendship.
In a tweet on Friday, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson wrote: “On our knees, let’s pray USA & IRAN do not unsheathe the weapons of war!”
He also said: “Let nations cultivate political friendship and not mutual demonization. The former builds peace, the latter kills it.”
Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defence minister, said in a tweet he discussed the latest “Iranian attacks” with the US envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, during a meeting on Friday.
“We affirmed the kingdom’s support … which came as a result of continuing Iranian hostility and terrorism,” he said, adding that he and Hook explored “the latest efforts to counter hostile Iranian acts and continuous escalation that threaten the region’s security and stability”.