France, Germany and UK blame Iran for Saudi oilfield attack
The UK, France and Germany have said they are convinced that Iran was responsible for airstrikes against Saudi oil installations, and called on Iran to negotiate over its role in the Middle East and its development of missiles as well as its nuclear programme.
In a joint statement at the UN general assembly, the three European governments supported the US and Saudi claim that Iran had carried out the missile and drone attack on 14 September against an oil field and petrochemical processing facility, but they maintained support for a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran they were party to, but which the US abandoned in 2018.
“It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation. We support ongoing investigations to establish further details,” the statement said following a meeting between the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
The statement said that the attack raised the risk of a major new conflict, which was of concern to the whole world. It underlined the importance of collective security and multilateral action, and restated the European nations’ commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal.
It called for Iran to return to the limits on its nuclear programme imposed by that agreement, which Tehran has begun to ignore more than a year after the US withdrew from the deal.
But the statement said Iran would now have to go further, arguing “the time has come for Iran to accept a long-term negotiation framework for its nuclear program, as well as regional security issues, which include its missile programs,” the statement said.
Iran has denied responsibility, insisting the strikes were launched from Yemen by their Houthi allies.
Monday’s statement came hours after Boris Johnson said he believed that Iran was responsible for the attack.
Speaking to reporters on his plane en route to the UN general assembly in New York, the prime minister said: “I can tell you that the UK is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran for the Aramco attacks. We think it very likely indeed that Iran was indeed responsible, using both drones and cruise missiles.
“Clearly, the difficulty is how do we organise a global response, what is the way forward. We’ll be working with our American friends and our European friends to construct a response that tries to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf region.”
France has sent investigators to examine the weapons fragments collected at the site of the attacks. The UN has also sent an investigative team, which has yet to deliver a report. Iran has said it will not necessarily accept the results of that report, calling into question the impartiality of the UN team.
The European statement comes as the US and Iran are poised to clash at the UN general assembly. Donald Trump is due to address the assembly on Tuesday, and the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who has already arrived in New York, will speak the next day. Both are expected to blame the other for the worsening instability in the Gulf.
At the same time that the statement was issued, the US envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, was laying out US evidence against Tehran. He told the Asia Society in New York that the projectiles used against the oil installations did not have the range to have reached their target from Yemen. He said the US would await the UN report for a final judgment.
It is unclear what would follow if the UN results supported the US, European and Saudi version of events. The US has made clear it is not considering military action for now.