BEIJING/MOSCOW: China on Tuesday warned against opening a “Pandora’s box” in the Middle East, while Russia called for restraint to avoid escalations after the United States announced the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the region amid escalating tensions with Iran.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi also urged Tehran to not abandon the nuclear agreement “so easily” after Iran said it would exceed its uranium stockpile limit if world powers fail to fulfil their commitments under the agreement in 10 days.
The United States ratcheted up pressure on Iran Monday, announcing the deployment of additional troops to the Middle East and producing new photographs it said showed Tehran was behind an attack on a tanker ship in the Gulf of Oman last week.
“We call on all parties to remain rational and restrained, not to take any actions to provoke the escalation of tension in the region, and not to open a Pandora’s box,” Wang told reporters in Beijing during a joint press conference with visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
“In particular, the United States should change its practice of extreme pressure,” Wang said.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “we are urging all the sides to show restraint,” in response to a question on the deployment from journalists.
“We would prefer not to see any steps that could introduce additional tensions in the already unstable region.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that US plans to increase its troop presence in the Middle East were aimed at provoking armed conflict.
Such actions “cannot be seen otherwise than as a deliberate course to provoke war,” Ryabkov told journalists, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency.
He said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while visiting in Russia last month had stated that US troops were in the region not to start war but prevent it.
Pompeo said at a news conference with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on May 14 that “we fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran.”
“If that’s the case, the US should refrain from further reinforcement of its presence and from other steps, including dragging and pushing its allies in various parts of the world into stepping up pressure on Iran,” Ryabkov said.
Peskov said Tuesday that “our starting point is still that Iran will remain within the framework of the nuclear deal and will maintain adherence to its obligations.”
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated ever since the US quit the nuclear deal and with Washington blacklisting Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on May 8 that Iran would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water agreed under the deal, a move he said was in retaliation for the unilateral US withdrawal.
Tehran on Monday followed through with a 10-day countdown for world powers to fulfil their commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran has threatened to go even further in scaling down nuclear commitments by July 8 unless remaining partners to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — help it circumvent US sanctions and especially enable it to sell its oil.
The US responded to the ultimatum by urging the international community not to give in to Iranian “nuclear extortion,” while the UN and European states called for cool heads.