Western diplomats have mounted pressure on China to prevent Iran from escalating tensions in the Middle East with a direct retaliatory strike against Israel.

U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken earlier this week spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other counterparts in Turkey and Saudi Arabia amid rising fears of retaliation by Tehran against Israel.

Blinken asked the foreign ministers to “make clear that escalation is not in anyone’s interest, and that countries should urge Iran not to escalate,” U.S. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said Thursday.


“We have also engaged with European allies and partners over the past few days and urged them as well to send a clear message to Iran that escalation is not in Iran’s interest, it’s not in the region’s interest, and it’s not in the world’s interest.”

Germany, whose Chancellor Olaf Scholz is visiting China next week, has also been in contact with Beijing over the issue of Iran, where China has influence, according to a Reuters report on Friday citing German officials.

U.S. and European officials are treading a fine line with China, denouncing the country as a trade risk and urging it to use its considerable diplomatic sway with countries isolated by Western sanctions.

Beijing is a critical trade partner of Russia and Iran as one of the last recipients of their oil exports. The three countries are also members of the China-led BRICS coalition of emerging markets.

Israel’s war against the Tehran-backed Palestinian Hamas began in October following a terror attack by the militant group. Israel has also been trading blows with factions in Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria, which it views as Iranian proxies.

Israel’s close ally, Washington, has repeatedly warned Tehran against interfering in the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

For its part, Tehran insists it does not direct the militant groups in their offensives but has previously praised the Hamas terror attack of Oct. 7.

Tensions spiked at the start of this month when seven Iranian military advisers, including senior officials, were killed in a suspected Israeli strike on Iran’s consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus on April 1. Israel has not claimed responsibility for the incident.

On Wednesday, Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel “should be punished and will be punished” for the Damascus killings.

“Consulates and embassies of any country are regarded as the soil of that country. When they attack our consulate, it means that they have attacked our soil”, he said, according to Iran’s state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency.