ISLAMABAD: The threat of an immediate conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been averted thanks to Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced on Wednesday.
Qureshi told the media that both the Saudi and Iranian leadership had agreed to pursue diplomatic options to resolve their differences.
His statement came just hours after Prime Minister Imran Khan concluded a visit to Saudi Arabia as part of Pakistan’s efforts to defuse tensions in the Persian Gulf region.
The prime minister had earlier travelled to Tehran, where he said Pakistan wanted to facilitate dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Qureshi said the Iranian leadership shared Pakistan’s perspective and expressed their willingness to hold direct talks or through any third party with Saudi Arabia.
The Iranian leadership also said they never wanted war with Saudi Arabia. Prime Minister Imran, according to Qureshi, took the same message to Saudi Arabia.
In Riyadh, Imran, who was also accompanied by ISI DG Lt General Faiz Hameed and other senior officials, met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Pakistan’s main objective was to avert any conflict between the two countries, Qureshi said, adding that he could say with confidence that the “threat of an immediate conflict” between Saudi Arabia and Iran was now fading away.
The two countries, he went on to say, agreed to pursue diplomatic options to resolve their differences. The mode of dialogue was being finalised, he added.
According to officials familiar with the development, Pakistan suggested direct talks between the Saudi and Iranian authorities. The prime minister even proposed Islamabad as the venue for such talks, the officials added.
The ISI DG, who in the last week of September quietly visited Iran and Saudi Arabia, is believed to have played a major role in laying the ground for de-escalation in the Middle East. Officials said he would be the focal person for future contacts between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Qureshi explained that the reason behind prime minister’s diplomatic initiative was the negative fallout of any conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia on Pakistan.
He said war in the Middle East would not only jeopardise the regional security but also have devastating consequences for the world’s economy.
“We have seen how the oil prices in the international market shot up after missile attacks on the Saudi oil facilities,” Qureshi recalled.
“Just imagine the consequences of a war between major oil producing countries,” the foreign minister asked.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been on the rise since September 14 missile attacks on the Saudi oil facilities. Both Riyadh and Washington blamed Tehran, which strongly denied its involvement.
Houthi rebels in Yemen on the other hand took responsibility. Before visiting Riyadh, Prime Minister Imran told CNN in an interview that President Trump had asked him to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif acknowledged the Prime Minister’s peace efforts.