Theresa May arrives at G20 summit with plea to US and Iran to calm tensions

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Prime Minister Theresa May walks down the steps from her aircraft with her husband, Philip, as they arrive in Japan (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Theresa May has issued a plea to the US and Iran to calm tensions in the Gulf ahead of her final global summit as Prime Minister.

She called for “de-escalation” of the crisis in the region following a series of events which have pushed Iran and the US to the brink of a military confrontation.

The Prime Minister called on Iran to abide by the terms of its nuclear deal, which appears increasingly fragile following the US decision to pull out of the accord and Tehran’s warnings that it would breach its conditions.

Mrs May has arrived in Japan for a G20 summit of world leaders which is likely to be overshadowed by the situation in the Gulf.

Tensions in the region have increased since the attack on two oil tankers earlier this month, which the UK believes was almost certainly the work of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The downing of a US drone has added to the volatility, with President Donald Trump calling off a retaliatory air strike against Iran with just minutes to go.

Mr Trump will be at the Osaka G20 meeting, and Mrs May has urged all parties to commit to lowering the diplomatic temperature in the region and preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which seeks to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

In response to Tehran’s warnings that it could imminently breach the deal, Mrs May told reporters travelling on her plane to Japan: “It’s important that Iran also abides by its commitments under the JCPOA.

“I think that what we need to see in relation to Iran at the moment is a de-escalation of the tensions that we have seen in that region and we will continue to work, and I will continue to talk with my colleagues, France and Germany, about the importance of us acting to do everything we can to maintain the JCPOA.”

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump last week aborted an air strike on Iran with just minutes to go (Evan Vucci/AP)

Asked about the aborted US military strike, Mrs May said it is “important… that we see a de-escalation of tensions on this particular issue”.

She added: “We do have, as the UK, a difference of opinion with the United States in relation to the JCPOA.

“The United States withdrew from the JCPOA, we continue to believe in the importance of that agreement, of maintaining that nuclear deal.”

The G20 summit, bringing together 19 leading industrialised economies and the European Union, will cover issues including climate change, global trade and efforts to prevent terrorists using the internet to spread propaganda.

In the margins of the summit on Friday, Mrs May will also have her first substantial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the Salisbury nerve agent attack in March 2018.

Setting out her hopes for the Osaka gathering, Mrs May said: “With the threat of climate change putting future generations at risk, vile terrorist propaganda continuing to spread online, and rising tensions in the Gulf, this summit is an opportunity for us to address critical global challenges affecting our nations.

G20 summit
The G20 summit is taking place in Osaka, western Japan (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

“Undoubtedly there are issues facing us today on which our countries do not all take the same approach.

“But I firmly believe that progress will be greatest when we approach shared challenges in a spirit of genuine collaboration. As we have seen time and time again – we are always stronger when we work together.

“And so my message to G20 leaders this week is this: it is only through international co-operation and compromise that we can protect our citizens’ security and prosperity and make the world a safer and better place to live.”

Downing Street has stressed Friday’s meeting with Mr Putin does not represent a normalisation of relations with Moscow.

The relationship with the Kremlin has been in the deep freeze since the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, which was blamed on Russia’s GRU intelligence agency.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We remain open to a different relationship but that can only happen if Russia desists from actions which undermine international treaties and collective security.”

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