Pakistan offers to defuse Saudi-Iran tensions

Published: January 11, 2016
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Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman meets Gen Raheel Sharif. PHOTO: APP

Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman meets Gen Raheel Sharif. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan on Sunday offered its ‘good offices’ to defuse tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran even as it supported the Saudi initiative to establish a coalition of likeminded Islamic states to counter terrorism and extremism.

The offer came from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his meeting with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who visited Islamabad as part of the kingdom’s efforts to seek Pakistan’s backing for the recently formed Saudi-led coalition.

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Mohammad bin Salman, who was the second high-level official from Saudi Arabia to visit Pakistan in three days, also held talks with army chief General Raheel Sharif at the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Earlier in the week, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al Jubeir visited Islamabad.

The focus of the Saudi defence minister’s discussions both at the PM Office and GHQ was on securing Pakistan’s support for the Saudi move to cobble together a coalition of 34-nation Islamic countries as well as current tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

An official statement said the premier recalled how Pakistan had historically pursued the policy of promoting brotherhood among member states of OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries).

“Pakistan has also always expressed its readiness to offer its good offices to brotherly Muslim countries for resolution of their differences through peaceful dialogue and reconciliation,” Nawaz added.

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A senior official privy to the meeting between the Saudi prince and the prime minister said Islamabad voiced its deep concerns over the Saudi-Iran row and warned that the situation could have serious implications for Pakistan.

“That is why the prime minister has offered Pakistan’s good offices to defuse tensions,” added the official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak to the media. However, it is not clear if Riyadh and Tehran are willing to accept Pakistan as a mediator.

Tensions between the Saudi Arabia and Iran have been on the rise ever since the former executed a prominent Shia cleric in early January. Angry protesters had then stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran before setting it on fire. The incident caused a cascading effect with Gulf countries cutting off diplomatic ties with Tehran.

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The war of words coupled with retaliatory actions against each other by Saudi Arabia and Iran had left Pakistan in a fix on making a decisive call about the Saudi coalition.

Despite the fact that its role remains vague, Pakistan on Sunday extended its backing to the coalition.

“The prime minister welcomed the Saudi initiative to establish a coalition of likeminded Islamic countries to counter terrorism and militancy and informed the deputy crown prince that Pakistan supports efforts to counter terrorism and extremism,” said the official statement.

The term ‘likeminded Islamic countries’ appears to address crucial questions regarding the exclusion of certain countries such as Iran, Iraq and Syria from the coalition.

But with details about the coalition scarce, there is little clarity on the extent of involvement which Saudi Arabia is seeking from Pakistan. Officials in Islamabad have privately made it clear that Pakistan will not spare troops for the coalition and at the same time will not become part of any action that is against any specific country. However, a second visit by a senior Saudi official within a span of three days suggests that Riyadh may have secured some sort of commitment from Islamabad.

Pakistan will stand by Saudi Arabia if territorial integrity threatened: PM Nawaz

On Sunday, Premier Nawaz once again stated that Pakistan would always stand with the people of Saudi Arabia against any threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the kingdom.

The two leaders agreed to further strengthen bilateral relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and deepen bilateral cooperation in all fields, including defence security, fight against terrorism, trade and investment and manpower requirements of the Kingdom.

The Saudi prince appreciated the valiant efforts waged by the security and law enforcement authorities to root out terrorism from Pakistan, particularly through the military campaign Zarb-e-Azb.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2016.

Reader Comments (7)

  • abreez
    Jan 11, 2016 - 10:46AM

    How can Pakistan defuse Saudi-Iran tensions, Pakistan is not enjoying very good relations with Iran. For healthy relations with Iran, Pak-Iran trade is a must thing and everyone in Pakistan know that priority of Pakistani government is commission and white gold trade.Recommend

  • Saleem
    Jan 11, 2016 - 11:01AM

    This article is not a news as it is full of opinionated insertions. It is not analysis because it pretends to be news . A responsible journalist would not infuse pieces like “added the official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak to the media. However, it is not clear if Riyadh and Tehran are willing to accept Pakistan as a mediator.” . If someone wants to be anonymous then any information he is providing is as good or authentic as opinion of barber down the street.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jan 11, 2016 - 12:47PM

    Pakistan is clearly fooling its citizens by not revealing the content of the talks behind closed doors or the kind of deal struck to be a partner of this coalition. Saudi FM and DM have not come to Pakistan to ask for advise on diffusing the crisis between it and Iran, they have come to cement some deal worked out much earlier between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The Truth will get exposed sooner or later and cause a lot of embarrassment. Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Jan 11, 2016 - 1:27PM

    Culturally, Pakistan is closer to Iran (mainly because Saudi does not really have a culture) but diplomatically Pakistan has always been in Saudi’s bed. Something tells me this tension diffusion gig ain’t gonna work, and as another poster indicated, something else is on the agenda.Recommend

  • Jan 11, 2016 - 2:55PM

    Being Neutral and enjoy the life. Recommend

  • Kashif
    Jan 11, 2016 - 8:20PM

    Good Relations should prevail, There are more Pakistanis in UAE who have lost their jobs in the past 1 year than any other nationality. Jobs possessed by Pakistanis previously are now being given to Philippine Nationals, and there’s “Almost” a Consistent Block on offering new Jobs to Pakistanis in UAE. Indians and Philippines are being preferred over Pakistanis and it appears as if there’s an unconditional understanding among employers to say “NO” to Pakistanis in the job market in the Arab world.
    Philippine Does not have Coalition with Arabs nor does Indians do, but they’re preferred over Pakistanis in Arab countries. Qatar, Oman, Bahrain has Banned to offer new jobs to all Pakistanis. Considering Pakistan’s Unconditional Support to Arab world, Pakistanis should possess better standard in Arab world compared to other nationalities who do not have Coalition with Arabs and that’s just simple. This is exactly how the world operations, Look at the European Union and other Economic and Trade blocks among different nations. Countries having common interest and goals and coalitions, support each others countrymen, after all this is what the coalitions are all about. Pakistan national’s status should even be above than the European workers “As long as they qualify for that job in term of Qualification, Experience and Skills” but that does not even come close, Pakistanis are ranked lower than all other nationalities in Arab world currently, even lower than Philippine and Indians. Let me put an example, if there’re three people applying for a same job (including Pakistani, Indian and Philippines) with same qualification and experience, the preference will be given to Philippine or an Indian, Pakistani national wouldn’t even get his due time in the interview.
    What good is the coalition if Pakistanis can’t even get jobs in the Arab world. Kudos to Indians and Philippines for achieving the better status without being part of the coalition.
    This analysis is based on nine months of consistent observation and job search process but still staying jobless in UAE (Dubai).Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Jan 12, 2016 - 7:18PM

    @Kashif:
    My suggestion is find a job in Iran then and forget the Arabs.Recommend

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