British PM Boris Johnson says UK will not mourn Soleimani but urges restraint

In a photo taken on Dec 21, 2019, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks out to speak with the Queen's Royal Hussars stationed in Estonia.
In a photo taken on Dec 21, 2019, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks out to speak with the Queen's Royal Hussars stationed in Estonia.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS, AFP) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday (Jan 5) that Britain would not lament Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani, killed by a US drone strike in Iraq on Friday, but called for restraint in the response to his death.

Soleimani "was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region. 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", Johnson said in an emailed statement.

He added: "Calls for ... reprisals will simply lead to more violence."

Johnson said he had spoken with US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron about the rising tension in the Middle East, adding: "We are in close contact with all sides to encourage de-escalation."

He said steps had been taken to increase the security of British personnel and interests in the region.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Germany, France and Britain on Sunday agreed to work towards bringing about de-escalation in the Middle East amid heightened tensions following the US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, a German government spokesman said.

“The chancellor, the French president and the British prime minister agreed to work together to reduce tensions in the region,” said the spokesman.

Following German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s telephone calls with France’s Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Boris Johnson, the spokesman said the leaders were “in agreement that de-escalation is now urgent”.

“Iran in particular is urged to exercise restraint in the current situation,” he added.