Sunday 5 January 2020 6:47 pm

Boris Johnson makes statement on Qasem Soleimani - finally

Boris Johnson has said the UK “will not lament” the death of general Qasem Soleimani, but urged the Iranian government to not retaliate with violence in a long awaited statement.

Solemaini – who was leader of Iran’s special operations Quds Force – was killed on Friday by US drone strikes in Baghdad.

Read more: Dominic Raab urges ‘nefarious’ Iran to calm Middle East tensions

Solemaini was said to be meeting with Iraqi militia group Kata’ib Hezbollah, who was responsible for attacking the US embassy in Baghad last week.

Iran are expected to retaliate to the incident, with supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei vowing “severe revenge”.

The prime minister released a statement tonight on the rising tensions in the Middle East, after days of silence.

“General Qasem Soleimani posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region,” he said.

“Given the leading role he has played in actions that have led to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and western personnel, we will not lament his death.

“It is clear however that all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region and they are in no one’s interest.

“We are in close contact with all sides to encourage de-escalation. I will be speaking to other leaders and our Iraqi friends to support peace and stability.”

Ministers will now meet on Monday to discuss the situation, while the National Security Council will also meet next week.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has been in contact with Iraqi president Barham Salih and prime minister Abdul Mahdi, and will meet with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo next week.

Raab mirrored Johnson’s message today, saying that America “had a right to exercise self-defence” when they killed Soleimani.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “The reality is that Iran for a long period has been involved with menacing, destabilising activity, partly through the work of general Soleimani.

Read more: ‘US will pay for Soleimani assassination’, says Iranian president

“My view is…that there is a right of self defence.

“We want to see the de-escalation of those tensions, we want to see stability in the region, we don’t want to give Daesh (ISIS) the opportunity of a vacuum there.”