Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday said Pakistan will do its utmost to enable talks and avoid conflict between arch regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Addressing a joint news conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, PM Imran said certain vested interests were pushing for yet another war in a region that has suffered immensely due to previous and ongoing conflicts.
“Pakistan does not want conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia … I am happy to facilitate talks between Tehran and Riyadh … I am very hopeful as I had constructive talks with the (Iranian) president,” he said, adding that he will travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
The premier reiterated that the reason for his trip to Iran and Saudi Arabia was to defuse rising tensions in the Middle East. “Pakistan will act as a facilitator, not as a mediator to help reduce tensions – now and in the future,” he said.
The premier, while recognising that the issues between the Iran and Saudi Arabia are “complex”, emphasised that Pakistan will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to avert large-scale conflict between the two Muslim countries.
“Mr President, the main reason I came over with my delegation is that we don’t want conflict in this region. Pakistan suffered 70,000 casualties in the War on Terror. Iran is still suffering and I don’t want more people to suffer in this part of the world.
“We have Iran as our neighbour and our ties with Iran go way back. Saudi Arabia is one of our closest friends – it has helped us in our times of need,” said PM Imran.
He warned that any such conflict would have disastrous effects on the stability and security of the region and the world at large.
“What shouldn’t happen is war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It will cause poverty in the world, oil prices will go up, countries that are spending money on human beings will be spending money on buying oil. This is not just Pakistan’s point of view, but the point of view of all developing countries,” he said.
The premier also said he will visit Saudi Arabia on Tuesday “with a positive state of mind” to emphasise the importance of dialogue, stressing that these efforts for peace were purely a Pakistani initiative.
PM Imran also thanked President Rouhani’s government for speaking out over the humanitarian crisis in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
For his part, President Rouhani appreciated PM Imran’s decision to visit Iran and play a part in defusing rising tensions in the Middle East.
He expressed optimism that Imran’s visit would have a positive outcome for the region and beyond, saying that Iran will make sure that any goodwill gesture is responded to with a goodwill gesture.
“In our meeting today, we discussed ways to enhance deep strategic relations between our brotherly countries. We also discussed a variety of issues which Tehran considers very significant for the region and the world,” said the Iranian president.
Rouhani said he was hopeful that Pakistan and Iran could work together for regional peace.
PM Imran Khan meets Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on October 13. PHOTO: PID
“We also discussed the developments in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman which are very critical regions. We have conveyed Iran’s concerns on developments taking place in the region and also this Friday’s attack on an Iranian oil tanker in the Red Sea,” he said, adding that an investigation is being carried out to ascertain responsibility for the attack.
Rouhani said that both leaders agreed that the key to establishing peace in the region was to stop the war in Yemen. He added that discussions were also held on the US sanctions and how the Iran nuclear deal could be returned to its previous position.
He said it was imperative that the US returns to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and lifts its sanctions on Iran.
Earlier, the two leaders held wide-ranging consultations in what was their second meeting within the span of a month.
In the meeting, PM Imran asserted that Pakistan attaches high importance to bilateral ties with Iran and was willing to play its role for strengthening peace and stability in the region.
Meeting with supreme leader
Separately, Premier Imran called on Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in Tehran. He thanked the supreme leader for support to the people of Occupied Kashmir for their right of self-determination.
The prime minister departed for Iran on Sunday morning, accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, special assistant Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, ISI chief Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed and other senior officials.
PM Imran and his delegation were accorded a warm welcome and were received by Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.