Iran-US attack in Iraq: Guterres pledges ‘active engagement’ in further de-escalation efforts

UN Photo/Mark Garten The UN Secretary-General António Guterres calls for a de-escalation of geopolitical tensions at a press conference at UN Headquarters on 6 January, 2020.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


In the wake of an Iranian ballistic missile attack on air bases which house US forces in Iraq, the UN Secretary-General said on Wednesday that he would “continue his active engagement” to de-escalate tensions and avert full-scale war.

In a statement released by his Spokesperson, António Guterres re-iterated the “passionate appeal for peace” he made on Monday, after tensions rose dramatically across the whole Gulf region, following the killing of top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a US drone strike.

Iran said it had carried out Tuesday night’s ballistic missile attack against two air bases used by US and other coalition forces in Iraq, in retaliation for the targeted killing on the outskirts of Baghdad airport on Friday.

The bases struck were the large Al Asad base, west of Baghdad, and another in Erbil, the centre of Iraq’s Kurdish region. The strikes came just hours after the burial of the influential general, marked by huge crowds, in Iran.

The UN chief repeated his four-point message to world leaders, to:

“Stop escalation. Exercise maximum restraint. Re-start dialogue”, and “renew international cooperation.”

“This appeal remains as important today as it was on Monday.

For his part, the Secretary-General will continue his active engagement with relevant actors”, the statement continued.

“It is our common duty to make every effort to avoid a war in the Gulf that the world cannot afford.  We must not forget the terrible human suffering caused by war.  As always, ordinary people pay the highest price”, Mr. Guterres concluded.

UN Iraq mission calls for ‘urgent restraint’

Citing the missile attacks in Erbil and Anbar governorates, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said the offensive served to “only escalate conflict, and again violate Iraqi sovereignty.”

The Mission’s tweet continued: “Senseless violence has predictable effects. We call for urgent restraint and a resumption of dialogue. Iraq should not pay the price for external rivalries.”

Solidarity with Iraq

Speaking to journalists in New York, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, reiterated that point, adding that “we very much support the unity, the sovereignty of Iraq”.

He said the UN chief had spoken by phone on Tuesday with Iraq’s President Barham Salih, “to whom he expressed the solidarity of the United Nations and continuing support for the Iraqi people.”

“The international community should support the Iraqi people as they seek to create the conditions for political dialogue”, he added.

Following a statement made by US President Donald Trump from the White House on Wednesday, Mr. Dujarric added: “We welcome any indication that leaders are walking back from major confrontation, and are doing whatever they can, to avoid any further escalation.”

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