FM Qureshi in Riyadh to defuse Saudi-Iran tensions

Published: December 11, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday held talks with his Saudi counterpart in Riyadh in what appears to be a visit linked to Pakistan’s efforts to seek de-escalation in rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region.

The significance of the visit can be judged from the fact that the chief of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency also accompanied the foreign minister on a daylong trip to Riyadh.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said Qureshi met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah. During the meeting bilateral ties, current situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and other regional and international issues were discussed, it added.

Briefing his Saudi counterpart, Qureshi said India had kept the disputed territory under locked down for four months with over eight million Kashmiris having almost no access to the outside world.

The foreign minister added that the people of Kashmir were looking up to the international community, particularly the Muslim world, to persuade India to stop grave human rights violations in the disputed territory.

A separate statement issued by the Saudi official news agency said the foreign ministers reviewed bilateral relations between the two ‘brotherly countries’ and ways of enhancing them in all fields.

“They also discussed the latest developments at regional and international arenas,” the statement further said.

Although no further details were available, official sources familiar with the development told The Express Tribune that the visit was part of ongoing efforts by Pakistan to defuse tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The two countries are at loggerheads since Saudi oil facilities came under missile attacks in September. Saudi Arabia and the US were quick to blame Iran for the attack.

Tehran, however, denied the allegations.

Pakistan has since been making efforts to facilitate dialogue between the two countries. Prime Minister Imran Khan made a stopover in Saudi Arabia on his way to the annual UN General Assembly session in New York in September to meet Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

In New York, he held meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rowhani to defuse tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.

The efforts in September were followed by a flurry of visits undertaken by Pakistani civil and military leadership both to Riyadh and Tehran.

Soon after Imran’s meeting with Saudi and Iranian leadership, the DG ISI visited Saudi Arabia and Iran as part of continued push by Pakistan to facilitate talks between the two countries.

In October, Prime Minister Imran travelled to Iran while in November Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also undertook a visit to Iran and met its top civil and military leadership.

All such diplomatic maneuvers, observers believed, were aimed at avoiding any conflict in the Persian Gulf region.

Pakistan enjoys close strategic ties with Saudi Arabia but at the same time considers its relationship with Iran important given its proximity as well as other factors.

Because of these reasons, Islamabad is trying to tread a careful path in Iran-Saudi rivalry.

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