This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The leaders of Britain, France, and Germany have backed the United States in assertions that Iran is to blame for the attack on Saudi oil facilities and urged Tehran to choose dialogue over “provocation.”
“It is clear for us that Iran bears responsibility” for the drone and missile attack on two oil facilities, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Emmanuel Macron of France, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement on September 23.
“There is no other plausible explanation,” they added at the United Nations on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders. “We support ongoing investigations to establish further details.”
At the same time, the European powers issued a statement reaffirming their support for the troubled 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but they told Tehran to stop breaching the terms of the accord.
“We reiterate our conviction that time has come for Iran to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear program as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles program and other means of delivery,” the statement said.
The European countries pledged to help ease tensions in the Middle East and urged Iran to “refrain from choosing provocation and escalation.”
Tensions have escalated over the September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities that roiled energy markets and that the United States and Saudi Arabia blamed on Iran, which denies involvement.
Washington has said it does not want armed conflict with Iran but that all options remain on the table, including war, in retaliation for Tehran’s alleged involvement in the attack.
Iran has warned the United States that any attack would lead to “all-out war.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on September 23 that Yemen’s Huthi rebels, who claimed responsibility, “have every reason to retaliate” for the Saudi-led coalition’s aerial attacks on their country.
Iran has backed the Shi’ite Muslim Huthi rebels in the battle against the internationally recognized government supported by Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). The bloody civil war has killed thousands of people and created a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Trump on September 20 authorized a “moderate” bolstering of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. following the September 14 attack.
Britain’s Johnson on September 23 said that, if asked, his country would “consider in what way we could be useful.”
In a speech, Iranian President Hassan Rohani told foreign powers to “stay away” from the Persian Gulf and suggested their presence was making the region “the site of an arms race.”
Rohani is scheduled to attend the UN General Assembly gathering in New York, igniting speculation about a possible meeting between Trump and the Iranian leader.
Trump on September 23 said he could not rule out a meeting with Rohani this week, but added that he had “nothing scheduled at this moment.”
“I never rule anything out,” he said.
Trump, meanwhile, rejected an offer by Macron to facilitate talks between Washington and Tehran, saying that “we don’t need a mediator.”
“They [the Iranians] know who to call,” Trump added.