European Union foreign ministers Friday called for an urgent de-escalation of spiraling violence in the Middle East and Libya, saying the region cannot afford another war — and they reiterating their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal.
Speaking to reporters after emergency talks in Brussels, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell issued a grim warning.
“The region cannot afford another war, and we call for an urgent de-escalation and maximum restraint to every part,” he said.
He said the uptick in regional violence risks jeopardizing years of effort to stabilize Iraq. The Europeans among others fear a resurgent Islamic State as one fallout.
The Brussels meeting capped an eventful week, with Iran responding to Washington’s deadly strike in Iraq on top commander Qassem Soleimani with missile attacks on two bases in Iraq. For its part, Iraq has demanded the U.S. to withdraw its troops from the country.
In North Africa, conflict in Libya has also notched up. Russia and Turkey have called for a cease-fire to begin Sunday. Borrell said the EU was prepared to help monitor it.
The violence is also testing European diplomacy and the EU’s new executive arm, which hopes to assert greater EU influence internationally.
Borrell said the bloc was committed to salvaging the Iran nuclear agreement, rejecting President Donald Trump’s call for Europe to follow his lead in abandoning the deal. He called on Iran to return to compliance.
“Without the JCPOA, today Iran would be a nuclear power,” he said. “Thanks to this deal, Iran is not a nuclear power.”
Earlier in the day, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said without the deal, Iran could have nuclear weapons in a year or two. Tehran claims its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.