ISLAMABAD: Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Wednesday that Pakistan was open to Iran’s mediatory role for reviving the stalled Afghan peace process.
“We will welcome any contribution which Iran can make also in talking to the groups which are involved in this decision-making and ultimately then promoting a more broad-based dialogue process to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Mr Aziz said.
He was answering a question at a press conference with the visiting secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, after their talks at the Foreign Office.
Mr Shamkhani is in Islamabad on a two-day visit for discussions on regional security, bilateral cooperation and border control. He also met newly appointed National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua.
The aggravating security situation in Afghanistan was discussed during both the meetings held with Mr Shamkhani and it was agreed that the two countries would work together for peace and stability in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Mr Shamkhani, according to a source, offered to cooperate on Afghanistan after the Pakistani side expressed concern over the situation there.
At the press conference, Mr Aziz said he had briefed Mr Shamkhani on the Murree peace process which Pakistan facilitated. The process was derailed after the disclosure about Mullah Omar’s death.
“So, now it is for the Afghan government to decide whether they want to resume the dialogue process. If they want then we will obviously facilitate,” he said about the future of the reconciliation process.
Mr Shamkhani said Iran valued Pakistan’s efforts for reconciliation in Afghanistan and peace and stability in the war-torn country would mean greater stability for the region.
Pakistan and Iran had a trilateral dialogue involving Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012, but the US pressure and mutual difference of opinion prevented meaningful cooperation. The two countries are also part of the Heart of Asia process – a platform for security, political and economic cooperation among Afghanistan, its neighbours and regional partners in facing common threats.
The two countries believe that Iran’s deal with the West on its nuclear programme has presented them new opportunities for cooperation.
Iran has particularly intensified its outreach to Pakistan since it agreed with P5+1 countries in April on the framework for a nuclear deal. The deal was finalised in July and has since been ratified by the UN, the US and Iran.
Mr Shamkhani’s was the third visit to Islamabad by a senior Iranian leader in six months.
“We hope that the implementation of the agreement will open up new avenues of economic and trade opportunities for both countries and contribute to the promotion of peace, security and prosperity in the region and beyond,” Mr Aziz said.
Both sides, he said, had agreed to collaborate for tackling terrorist threats and related problems of smuggling and drug trafficking.
Mr Shamkhani echoed Mr Aziz as he also pointed towards the opportunities for cooperation and said he had discussed the existing challenges in the region with his interlocutors.
“I conveyed Iran’s readiness to cooperate with Pakistan on dealing with the threat from Daesh (the self-styled Islamic State) and other Takfiri groups,” he said, adding that he also had proposed bilateral defence and security cooperation.
SYRIA: Answering a question about Russian air strikes in Syria against IS targets, Mr Aziz said Pakistan was closely following the situation.
“Russian entry into Syrian conflict is very significant. There are indications that it will lead to a positive outcome in the shape of a political settlement. If that happens, the Russian involvement will be certainly viewed positively. But for now we reserve our judgment about this development,” he said.
Mr Shamkhani said: “Iran has always supported political solution of the Syrian crisis. Russian involvement has revived efforts for a political settlement. Iran has been invited to a conference in Vienna on Syria and we will attend without any preconditions.”
Iran has been actively supporting the Assad government during the strife in Syria.
Mr Shamkhani will meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday.
Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2015