Amid rising tensions with US, Tehran looks to Islamabad for support

Published: May 22, 2019
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. PHOTO: REUTERS

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is due to arrive in Islamabad on Thursday (today) as part of Tehran’s efforts to garner Pakistan’s support against the backdrop of rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region.

Foreign Office officials confirmed that Zarif would be in Islamabad for daylong trip to hold meetings with civil and military authorities.

The primary purpose of his visit is to brief the Pakistani leadership about Iran’s ongoing tensions with the United States, they said.

The top Iranian diplomat has already travelled to other regional countries, including China, Japan, India and Turkmenistan. Iran’s state-run news agency, IRNA, said Zarif held meetings with top officials of the four Asian countries on the US moves to create tension in the region.

He also briefed them about Iranian commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) endorsed by the UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

Iran decided to review some of the commitments to the July 2015 nuclear deal after the United Stated withdrew unilaterally a year ago and led Iran to take reciprocal measure based on Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.

Zarif’s visit comes against the backdrop of heightened fears of a clash between the US and Iran. The US has recently sent an aircraft carrier and a bomber taskforce to the Middle East in response to what officials called “a credible threat” by Iranian regime forces.

Saudi Arabia said that several of its oil tankers had been damaged in mysterious “sabotage attacks” after US warnings that Iran could target shipping in the region.

Observers believe that any serious conflict between Iran and the US would test the diplomatic skills of Pakistan, which has close ties with Iran’s arch rival Saudi Arabia but at the same time does not want to antagonise the neighbouring country.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said recently that Pakistan would not join any camp in case of a conflict, warning that any escalation in tensions would be detrimental for the entire region.

Pakistan has also urged both the US and Iran to show maximum restraint and insists that dialogue was the only way forward to resolve contentious issues.

The Foreign Office officials said Islamabad would reiterate its stance during the visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister. It is expected that the two sides would also review the bilateral ties during the visit of Zarif to Islamabad.

One of the issues that would come up for discussions is the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Pakistan has recently informed Iran that it could not proceed with the project as long as US sanctions remain on Tehran.

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