An Iranian Shia Muslim cleric raises a clenched fist as others carry pictures of Iran’s late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, during an anti-Israel demonstration after the Friday noon prayer in Tehran on April 19. — AFP

Calls for de-escalation as world reacts to reports of Israeli strikes on Iran

UK PM says "significant escalation" not in anyone's interest while China opposes any actions that further escalate tensions.
Published April 19, 2024

Following reports from the US media of Israeli strikes on Iran on Friday in the latest tit-for-tat exchange, countries around the world urged a de-escalation in current tensions.

Israel had previously warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel almost a week ago, in retaliation for a deadly strike — which Tehran blamed on its foe — that levelled Iran’s consular annex at its embassy in Syria.

While most of the Iranian strikes were intercepted, fears of a major regional spillover from Israel’s Gaza offensive have since soared.

Israeli allies, including the United States, had since been pressing hard to ensure any further retaliation would be calibrated not to provoke a spiral of hostilities. The British and German foreign ministers visited Jerusalem this week, and Western countries tightened sanctions on Iran to mollify Israel.

Today, explosions echoed the Iranian city of Isfahan in what sources described as an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and indicated it had no plans for retaliation — a response that appeared gauged towards averting region-wide war.

Here is how the world reacted to today’s developments — mostly calling for de-escalation as it did when Iran struck Israel:


Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations urged “all parties” to “work to prevent further escalation” in the Middle East.

“In light of reports of strikes on April 19, we urge all parties to work to prevent further escalation. The G7 will continue to work to this end,” the G7 said in a statement.

The ministers from Italy, the UK, US, France, Germany, Japan and Canada said they “demand that Iran and its affiliated groups cease their attacks”. “We will hold the Iranian government accountable for its malicious and destabilising actions,” they said after a meeting on the Italian island of Capri.

The G7 said they were “ready to adopt further sanctions or take other measures, now and in response to further destabilising initiatives”.

“Israel and its people have our full solidarity and support and we reaffirm our commitment towards Israel’s security,” the statement added.


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for restraint to avoid further escalation in the Middle East.

“We have to do everything possible [so] that all sides restrain from the escalation in that region,” von der Leyen told reporters during a visit to Finland, adding: “It is absolutely necessary that the region stays stable and that all sides refrain from further action.”

French deputy FM Jean-Noel Barrot said: “All I can say is that France’s position is to call on all actors for de-escalation and restraint.”

Italian FM Antonio Tajani, who holds the G7 rotating presidency, told a press conference in Capri that he “wanted a very clear message to come out of G7: the political goal of the G7 is de-escalation”. “We invite all parties to work to avoid any escalation,” he added.

Germany also pleaded for restraint. “De-escalation must be the advice of the hour,” said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit, adding: “We must prevent a conflagration at all costs, and this appeal goes to all sides.”

Swedish FM Tobias Billstrom said: “This is something we from the government’s side take very seriously and are following very closely.

“There has to be an end to the exchange of blows and escalation.”


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, while reiterating Israel’s “right to self-defence”, emphasised that “significant escalation is not in anyone’s interest”.

PM Sunak said, “We have condemned Iran’s reckless and dangerous barrage of missiles against Israel on Saturday and Israel absolutely has a right to self-defence.

“But as I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when I spoke to him [this week] and more generally, significant escalation is not in anyone’s interest, what we want to see is calm heads prevail across the region.”


The Kremlin said it was looking into reports that Israel carried out a strike on Iran and urged all sides to exercise “restraint” to prevent further escalation.

“We continue to favour restraint on the sides and to refrain from any action that could provoke further escalation in such a sensitive region,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“There have been telephone contacts between the leadership of Russia and Iran, our representatives and the Israelis. We made it very clear in these conversations, we told the Israelis that Iran does not want escalation,” Russia’s FM Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with radio stations.


The Turkish foreign ministry highlighted that “Israel’s illegal attack” on Iran’s consulate in Damascus had “provoked” tensions.

“It is becoming more and more clear that the initial tensions provoked by Israel’s illegal attack against the Iranian embassy in Damascus risks transforming into a permanent conflict,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We call on all the parties to abstain from any measure that could lead to a wider conflict,” it added.


Oman, which has long mediated between Tehran and the West, condemned an “Israeli attack” on Iran.

Oman “condemns the Israeli attack this morning on Isfahan […] it also condemns and denounces Israel’s repeated military attacks in the region”, said a foreign ministry statement released on X.

“Oman once again appeals to the international community to address the causes and roots of tension and conflict through dialogue, diplomacy and political solutions, and to focus on ceasefire efforts in Gaza and resort to international law and United Nations resolutions to reach a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue.”


Egypt said it was deeply concerned about an escalation of hostilities between Israel and Iran.

The Egyptian foreign ministry warned of the consequences of expanding the conflict and instability in the region.


China said it will “continue to play a constructive role to de-escalate” tensions in the Middle East. The country is a close partner of Iran, its largest trade partner, and a top buyer of its sanctioned oil.

“China opposes any actions that further escalate tensions and will continue to play a constructive role to de-escalate the situation,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said.


Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said she joined her G7 colleagues in “urging all parties to work to prevent further escalation”.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” she had said earlier on X.


Japan said it “strongly condemned any actions that lead to the escalation of the situation”.

Chief cabinet secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said Japan was “deeply concerned” about the current situation and would “continue to make all necessary diplomatic efforts to prevent the situation from worsening further”.


Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for “extreme restraint from everybody”.

“IAEA can confirm that there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites,” the UN’s nuclear watchdog said on X.

“Director General Rafael Grossi continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts. IAEA is monitoring the situation very closely,” it added.

Ben Saul, the UN’s special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, said: “Israel’s latest strikes on Iran are another violation of the prohibition on the use of military force under international law and the UN Charter, and threaten the human right to life.”

From the Israeli side, hard-right security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said “Feeble!” in a post on his X account, without expanding upon it further.

Header image: An Iranian Shia Muslim cleric raises a clenched fist as others carry pictures of Iran’s late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, during an anti-Israel demonstration after the Friday noon prayer in Tehran on April 19. — AFP