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PM, army chief to visit Saudi Arabia, Iran to ease tension

Updated January 16, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif will be embarking on a visit to Saudi Arabia and Iran from Monday January 18 to defuse tension between the two countries that spiralled after the execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia.

Official sources confirmed that the top civilian and military leaders would pay a day-long visit to Saudia Arabia on 18th January to meet Saudi King Salman and will discuss with him the latest situation in the Middle East and the kingdom's relations with Iran.

The sources added that after the trip to Saudi Arabia, the next stopover will be in Tehran where meetings will be held with the top Iranian leadership aimed at defusing tension with its arch rival KSA.

Saudi Arabia and fellow-Sunni Bahrain cut ties with Iran, a few days days after Iranian demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran in protest at Riyadh's execution of prominent cleric Sheikh Nimr.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and some other states broke off ties with Iran over the attack. The United Arab Emirates downgraded relations while some others recalled their envoys in protest.

The Iranian government quickly distanced itself from the attack, saying the protesters had entered the Saudi embassy despite widespread efforts by the police to stop them.

Read: Defence minister’s Iran visit cancelled

Last week, Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman visited Islamabad to discuss Saudi Arabia's military alliance against the self-styled Islamic State, and met with Army chief General Raheel Sharif who assured him of a “strong response” to threats to the kingdom’s territorial integrity without committing troops to the alliance.

Also read: S. Arabia assured of support