Minister: Govt closely monitoring US-Iran tension before deciding to evacuate Malaysians from Iran, Iraq

University students attend a protest against the US and Iran interventions, in Basra, Iraq January 8, 2020. — Reuters pic
University students attend a protest against the US and Iran interventions, in Basra, Iraq January 8, 2020. — Reuters pic

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PUTRAJAYA, Jan 9 ― Malaysia is closely monitoring around-the-clock the developments in West Asia before making a decision to evacuate Malaysian citizens in Iran and Iraq, said Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

Tension in West Asia is growing following the death of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian elite force, who was killed in a drone attack by America near Baghdad airport early last Friday morning.

“The evacuation is not happening yet...we have held meetings with various related agencies and are monitoring the situation there around-the-clock.

“Our Malawakil (Office of the Malaysian Delegation) in Tehran is in constant contact with us, so too our Malawakil in Jordan, constantly reporting back to us,” he said when commenting on the growing tension between America and Iran.

Saifuddin was speaking in a press conference held after the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between Wisma Putra and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in academics, culture and research here today.

“Evacuation sounds easy...but is definitely not like going for a tour, and more often we cannot announce our plans for the safety of our people, but we are making all preparations that are needed,” he said.

Saifuddin said Wisma Putra had issued a travel advisory and hoped Malaysians in Iran and Iraq as well as others who are planning to travel there will take safety precautions.

There are currently 163 Malaysian citizens in Iraq, most of whom are Petronas staff, as well as several lecturers, while in Iran, 73 people have registered with Malawakil in Tehran.

Following the tensions, the Philippine government on Wednesday has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Filipino workers from Iraq and Iran and is sending a coast guard vessel to the Middle East to ferry its citizens to safety in case hostilities between the US and Iran worsen.

According to Xinhua news agency, Trump on Wednesday said that no US casualties have resulted from Iran's missile attack on US forces in Iraq on Tuesday.

Saifuddin said Wisma Putra will support any party which are making efforts to de-escalate the situation between America and Iran.

“We are not the main player but we are very supportive of efforts by various parties to calm down the situation. Nobody wants war and that is for sure, definitely we are not supporting any escalation. We want the situation to return to calmness,” he said.

In a separate development, commenting on the role of Wisma Putra after the Cabinet approved sending an firefighting and rescue mission to Australia which is currently raging bush fires, Saifuddin said: “Our role is to send the message to our counterpart, but we had got a reply that they are very thankful for our offer, but I think they have sufficient resources for the time being.”

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the Cabinet Meeting had approved a proposal to send a firefighting and rescue mission of 65 people to Australia. ― Bernama

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