South Africans in Iran, Iraq have not yet requested assistance, says Dirco

Iranian mourners gather during the final stage of funeral processions for slain top general Qasem Soleimani. (Atta Kenare, AFP)
Iranian mourners gather during the final stage of funeral processions for slain top general Qasem Soleimani. (Atta Kenare, AFP)

No South Africans have contacted the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) for assistance in Iraq and Iran as tensions in the region simmer after a US air strike that killed an Iranian general in Iraq last week.

Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Guards' Quds Force foreign operations arm, was assassinated on Friday with others in a drone strike near Baghdad international airport.

The spokesperson for International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor, Lunga Ngqengelele, told News24 in an e-mail that according to the department's information, the South African embassy in Amman, Jordan, had not received any requests for assistance from South Africans.

READ | SA alarmed by escalating tension in Iraq, calls for call

South Africa does not have embassies in Iran or Iraq, with the Jordanian embassy servicing South Africans in the region.

"Here in Pretoria, we are only getting calls from South Africans who are asking about the situation in the Middle East," Ngqengelele said.

He could not say how many South Africans were in Iran and Iraq, as Dirco does not keep those type of statistics.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered this country's military to prepare to deploy its aircraft and ships at a moment's notice to evacuate thousands of Filipino workers in Iraq and Iran should violence break out, with other Asian nations to follow suit, Associated Press reported.

Britain had reduced staff at its embassies in Iran and Iraq to a minimum level, Sky News reported.

On Friday, Dirco said in a statement the South African government was alarmed by the escalating tension in Iraq, which has far-reaching ramifications not only for the Middle East, but also for international peace and security.

According to the statement, Pandor said: "It is crucial for all sides to remain calm and desist from taking any further action that will exacerbate the already fragile situation. South Africa emphasises its principled view that conflicts should be resolved through political dialogue rather than resorting to the use of force."

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