Boris Johnson warns Trump that targeting Iranian cultural sites would break international law

  • Boris Johnson warns Trump against targeting Iranian cultural sites.
  • A spokesperson for Johnson says doing so would be a breach of international law.
  • Trump on Monday repeated his threat to target the sites.
  • Johnson and other European leaders release a joint statement calling the US and Iran to step back from outright war.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Boris Johnson has warned Donald Trump that any attempt to target Iranian cultural sites would be a breach of international law.

Trump on Monday repeated his threat to target Iranian cultural sites, after suggesting over the weekend that the US could hit the sites "very fast and very hard."

"They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way," Trump told reporters.

Responding to the comments, a spokesperson for Johnson said on Monday that any attempt to target Iranian cultural sites would be a breach of international law.

"There are international conventions in place that prevent the destruction of cultural heritage," the spokesperson said.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, and U.S. President Donald Trump pose during a group photo during a NATO leaders meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg rejected Wednesday French criticism that the military alliance is suffering from brain death, and insisted that the organization is adapting to modern challenges. (Peter Nicholls, Pool Photo via AP)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, reaches out to shake hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at the official arrivals for a NATO leaders meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg rejected Wednesday French criticism that the military alliance is suffering from brain death, and insisted that the organization is adapting to modern challenges. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks over to U.S. President Donald Trump who is talking to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prior to a NATO leaders meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. As NATO leaders meet and show that the world's biggest security alliance is adapting to modern threats, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is refusing to concede that the future of the 29-member alliance is under a cloud. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, and U.S. President Donald Trump pose during a group photo during a NATO leaders meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg rejected Wednesday French criticism that the military alliance is suffering from brain death, and insisted that the organization is adapting to modern challenges. (Peter Nicholls, Pool Photo via AP)
President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in New York. In a decision with wide-ranging political ramifications, Britain's Supreme Court plans to give its verdict Tuesday on the legality of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's five-week suspension of Parliament. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend a working breakfast at the Hotel du Palais on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, speak to the media before a working breakfast meeting at the Hotel du Palais on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (Erin Schaff, The New York Times, Pool)
FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, speak to the media before a working breakfast meeting at the Hotel du Palais on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France. Johnson says he’ll tell President Donald Trump that the U.K.’s state-funded health service will be off the table in any future trade negotiations, and that the U.S. will have to open its markets to British goods if it wants to make a deal. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times, Pool, File)
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Asked if Johnson regarded such attacks as a war crime, the spokesperson repeated that they would be a breach of international conventions.

However, he added that destroying cultural sites is forbidden under the terms of the Hague Convention, which governs the conduct of wars, and which the US is a signatory.

The comments came after European leaders issued a statement calling for both the US and Iran to show "the utmost restraint and responsibility."

"There is now an urgent need for de-escalation," Johnson, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron said in a joint statement on Sunday evening.

"We call on all parties to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility. The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped."

The statement came after the UK called on Trump to step back from all-out war with Iran.

The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said on Friday that conflict with Iran "is in none of our interests" and urged "all parties to de-escalate."

The crisis has strained relations between the two countries. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday. accused the UK and other European allies of "not being helpful," over the ongoing crisis.

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