France, Germany urge its citizens to depart Iran, cancel flights amid increased risk of military escalation

France and Germany have urged their citizens to depart Iran amid an increased risk of military escalation in the Middle East. 

‘Due to the new level reached overnight by Iran and the risk of military escalation, the French embassy recommends to French residents in Iran who have the possibility, depending on the resumption of international air traffic, to leave temporarily the country,’ French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said in a statement issued Sunday. ‘You are asked to exercise the greatest caution when traveling, to avoid any gatherings in the country and to keep yourself informed of the situation.’ 

The statement added that French nationals ‘are recommended to absolutely refrain from traveling to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.’ 

In a televised interview with France 2, Sejourne said Sunday he asked the foreign ministry to summon the ambassador of Iran on Monday, adding that it was ‘the Iranians who attacked Israel.’ 

France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, meanwhile, asked police to maintain a ‘static and visible presences’ outside synagogues and faith schools ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover from April 22 to 30, Agence France Presse reported. 

The German airline group Lufthansa, which includes the German flagship carrier as well as Swiss and Austrian airlines, announced on Sunday that it was suspending flights to Amman, Erbil and Tel Aviv until at least Tuesday and flights to Beirut and Tehran until at least Thursday as it continues to evaluate the security situation in the Middle East and maintains close contact with authorities, Reuters reported. Lufthansa already announced Friday it was suspending flights to and from Tehran until at least April 18. 

On Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement condemning ‘the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by the Islamic Republic of Iran this evening,’ calling for an ‘immediate cessation of these hostilities.’ 

‘I am deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation. I urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East,’ he said. ‘I have repeatedly stressed that neither the region nor the world can afford another war.’ 

Pope Francis on Sunday pleaded with Iran and Israel to ‘for a halt to any action that could fuel a spiral of violence with the risk of dragging the Middle East into an even greater conflict,’ Reuters reported. 

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