Paris (CNSNews.com) – French President Emmanuel Macron urged his Iranian counterpart in a phone call Tuesday to “refrain from any measures that would aggravate” tensions in the region following the killing of Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, but – according to the Iranian presidency – Hassan Rouhani told him the U.S. could not expect to avoid “repercussions.”
“Americans should know that their security and interests across the region are at risk and they will not remain immune to repercussions of this great crime,” the Iranian presidency quoted him as saying.
Macron has taken a lead in European efforts over the past year-and-a-half to ease tensions between Iran and the U.S., including an initiative at the G7 summit he hosted last summer to try to get Rouhani and President Trump to meet in New York.
A statement from the French presidency said Macron had “underscored France’s deep concern over recent events in Iraq and the region, as well as France’s determination to work towards easing tensions.”
“He called on Iran to refrain from any measures that would aggravate the escalation in progress.”
Macron also underlined his country’s commitment to Iraq’s security and sovereignty, and the importance of ongoing coalition efforts to fight against ISIS there.
And he called on Tehran to return to full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The regime this week said it would no longer agree to the curbs on its nuclear program required by the 2015 nuclear agreement.
The statement from the Iranian presidency said Rouhani told Macron Iran would return to compliance with the JCPOA once other partners in the deal meet their own obligations. The regime is dissatisfied with E.U. efforts to keep the agreement alive after Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018 and restored U.S. sanctions.
Macron earlier joined his German and British counterparts urging Iran to stop all measures that are not in line with the nuclear deal. The three countries are parties to the JCPOA, along with Russia, China and Iran itself.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told media outlets there was “still room for diplomacy,” and that France’s priority is to secure a de-escalation of tensions.
“It is important that Iran renounces to conduct any reprisals or retaliations,” he told France 24 on Monday. “In all the talks I’ve held with other officials, from Europe and other parts of the world, no one wants a war.”
Le Drian has been working the phones since Friday as France attempts to tamp down tensions. He and other French diplomats have spoken to their U.S., Emirati, Iraqi, Turkish, Russian, German, Chinese, Saudi, British and E.U. counterparts, among others.
Although France has not directly condemned the U.S. decision to kill Soleimani, Le Drian did tell BFM TV on Monday that the tensions had arisen as a result of “bad choices made by the two sides, which is leading to an escalation of tensions.”
E.U. foreign ministers will meet in Brussels on Friday to discuss the crisis. In the meantime, NATO has announced a temporary suspension in anti-ISIS coalition activities in Iraq, and Paris is advising French citizens to avoid traveling to Iraq or Iran.
France by custom does not publicly discuss troop presence and numbers abroad, but according to media reports in 2017 France had some 1,200 troops in Iraq and Syria, 900 in Lebanon, 1,450 in Djibouti and 650 in the U.A.E.