Sunday Oct 13, 2019
TEHRAN: Prime Minister Imran Khan, during a joint conference with President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, said he wished to facilitate — not mediate — discussions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
During his day-long visit to Tehran. PM Imran said a war between Iran and Saudi Arabia should never happen. "The issue is complex but can be resolved through dialogue.
“Pakistan does not want any conflict in the region,” he said, adding that Pakistan had suffered 70,000 casualties in the war on terrorism and the neighbouring Afghanistan, too, had suffered badly in the ongoing conflict.
The premier noted that Pakistan would do whatever was possible to help lift the sanctions on Iran and set up the deal on a nuclear agreement. He added Saudi Arabia was one of the closest friends of Pakistan and Riyadh had always helped Islamabad in times of need.
PM Imran emphasised that Pakistan did not want a conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia while recognising that it was a complex and complicated issue.
“This visit to Iran and the visit that I will undertake to Saudia Arabia on Tuesday is a Pakistan-led initiative.
"I will go with a positive mind to Saudi [Arabia and] Pakistan will play the role of a facilitator,” he said, stressing that Pakistan was willing to host both countries in Islamabad.
“When I was in New York, I was asked by US President Trump to facilitate these talks and we will do all what we can. We would facilitate so that sanctions can be lifted [and] a nuclear deal can be signed”, the PM said.
Rouhani appreciated the steps taken by Pakistan to de-escalate the regional peace and stability.
The Iranian president said the rocket attacks on Iranian oil tankers in the Red Sea was an attempt to damage the regional stability but warned that it would be wrong to assume that there would not be any retaliation from Tehran. He also termed the sanctions on his country as economic terrorism.
Separately, PM Imran also met Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, whom he thanked for supporting the Kashmiri folks' right of self-determination.
The Muslim Ummah had some internal and external challenges at the moment, the PM said, adding that there was a dire need for unity and integrity.
PM Imran was received by Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, when he arrived in Tehran as a part of his initiative to promote peace and security in the region during his second official visit to the country.
The two held a meeting as well.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the prime minister's special assistant on overseas Pakistanis, Zulfiqar Bukhari, accompanied him in Iran.
Earlier in the day, PM Imran had held wide-ranging consultations with Rouhani wherein he had said Pakistan attached high importance to its bilateral ties with Iran.
"Pakistan is willing to play its role towards strengthening peace and stability in the region," he was quoted as saying.
Last month, the premier had held a bilateral meeting with the Iranian president on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly session in New York. He said both the United States and Saudi Arabia had asked him to mediate with Iran to defuse tensions in the Gulf.
There have been a spate of still-unexplained attacks on oil shipping in and around the vital seaway involving Iran and Western powers, as well as drone attacks on the Saudi oil installations. Washington has accused Iran of attacking the vessels with mines as well as of being behind the drone assault — a charge Tehran strongly denies.
On Saturday, FM Zarif welcomed efforts for mediation with Saudi Arabia ahead of PM Imran's visit to the country.
"We've always been open to discussing anything with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is our neighbour. We're going to be here together permanently," Zarif had said in an interview with TRT World.
The confirmation had come after the Foreign Office said Thursday the PM was likely to visit Saudi Arabia and Iran, weeks after Islamabad said Washington had asked it to mediate with Tehran.
The announcement of the visit comes after the premier said last month Trump had asked him to help defuse tensions in the Middle East. After meeting the US president on the sidelines of the UNGA's 74th session in New York, PM Imran had said he was “trying and mediating” and had also spoken with Iran’s Rouhani.
Washington had blamed Tehran for an attack on the world’s biggest crude oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago.