Boris Johnson calls for urgent de-escalation in Middle East

Aditi Khanna

London, Jan 8 (PTI) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday condemned Iran’s use of ballistic missiles on US-led coalition air bases in Iraq and called for “urgent de-escalation” in the Middle East.

Addressing the House of Commons, he issued a warning to Iran to refrain from further “reckless and dangerous” attacks as he confirmed that non-essential British personnel had been moved from the region.

'We of course condemn the attack on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces,' Johnson said during the first Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) session since the UK Parliament returned from its Christmas recess.

'Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation,' he said.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard has said the overnight strikes were in retaliation for the death of General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed outside Baghdad airport on Friday in a missile strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.

Johnson told MPs that there had been no UK casualties in the missile attack 'as far as we can tell'.

'We are doing everything we can to protect UK interests in the region, with HMS Defender and HMS Montrose operating in an enhanced state of readiness to protect shipping in the Gulf,' he added.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the situation in the Middle East as a “real risk” of developing into a full-scale war.

Johnson will later also discuss the Iran crisis at a meeting with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during Brexit talks at 10 Downing Street.

The UK is set to leave the European Union (EU) on January 31 and the meeting marks the first step towards working out the details of the exit from the 28-member economic bloc.

Meanwhile, mounting tensions in the Middle East are being seen as the first major foreign policy test of Johnson’s prime ministership since his landslide victory in the snap General Election last month. PTI AK PMS PMS