Iran’s top envoy cast off doubts that his country was opposed to the upcoming economic corridor between Pakistan and China or the development of the Gwadar port, insisting that Tehran “supports growth and development anywhere in Pakistan”.
“Iran believes in economic development in Pakistan’s Balochistan province as well as in our own Sistan and Baluchestan province, as it is fundamental to fighting poverty and extremism in the region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told a joint news conference with Sartaj Aziz, the premier’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs.
Asked if Iran supported the China-Pakistan project, as well as development of the Gwadar port, the Iranian FM said: “We certainly support growth and development anywhere in Pakistan, particularly in areas adjacent to Iran.”
His statement comes at a time when the perception that Iran considers the CPEC project a potential threat to its Chabahar port has been gaining strength.
India, which has publicly objected to the CPEC project, plans to develop the Chabahar port in – according to observers – an apparent attempt to undermine the Gwadar port.
The Iranian minister is here as part of his visit to regional countries, during which he would also call on India.
In Islamabad, he held comprehensive talks with Aziz, and also called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Zarif briefed Nawaz on the nuclear deal between Tehran and the West.
During the press conference, he thanked Pakistan for extending support to Iran as regards its right for peaceful nuclear energy.
He said the nuclear deal would help remove obstacles between Pakistan and Iran to improve their bilateral cooperation in economic and trade areas.
Responding to a question, Zarif said the removal of sanctions on Iran could expedite the work on the multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project.
Aziz told the media that the two countries had reviewed their bilateral relations, including as regards the energy sector. “We have agreed that enhancing bilateral cooperation in the energy sector is one of the major areas of mutually beneficial cooperation,” he said. “The imperative of making progress on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project has also been emphasised.”
The two sides also discussed the security of the Pakistan-Iran border in Balochistan. The Iranian FM said there had been unfortunate incidents where terrorists from the Pakistani side of the border had sneaked in and killed innocent people.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2015.