EU top diplomat urges no Middle East escalation after US strikes

Published : 03 Feb 2024 09:28 PM

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Saturday called on all parties to avoid further escalation in the Middle East after US strikes on Iran-linked groups in Syria and Iraq.

"Everybody should try to avoid that the situation becomes explosive," Borrell said at a meeting on EU foreign ministers in Brussels. 

The United States launched air strikes against Iranian forces and allied militias in Iraq and Syria on Friday, with President Joe Biden vowing more to come in retaliation for a deadly drone attack on an American base in Jordan.

Borrell did not address the US strikes directly, but repeated a warning that the Middle East "is a boiler that can explode". 

He pointed to the war in Gaza, violence along the Lebanese border, bombings in Iraq and Syria and attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. 

"That's why we call everybody to try to avoid an escalation," Borrell said.  The EU is aiming to launch a naval mission in the Red Sea later this month to help protect international vessels from attacks by Yemen's Huthis.

Borrell said the mission would be "defensive" and not conduct any attacks on land against the Yemeni rebels.