TEHRAN: In what appears to be a veiled reference to the Saudi-led military alliance, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq on Monday that the countries which had supported militant groups for a long time could not claim to fight them.

Without naming any specific country, the Iranian president said that the countries “supporting terrorist groups” such as the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group “financially and logistically for a long time cannot claim to be combating them”, according to a report carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.

Pakistan is part of the Saudi-led military coalition — the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) — and a couple of days ago former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif left for Riyadh to assume the command of the 41-nation alliance.

While Iran suspects that under the garb of fighting terrorism the military alliance will intervene in Iraq and Syria and Saudi Arabia will also push the alliance into Yemen, Pakistan says that the coalition is focused on combating terrorism and it is neither for nor against any country.

Rouhani tells NA speaker Iran can help Pakistan in overcoming energy shortages

Recently, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said that Pakistan had conveyed to Tehran that while in the alliance, it would not act against Iranian interests nor would a Pakistani serving the alliance undertake any such action.

However, President Rouhani told Speaker Sadiq, who is on an official visit to Iran, that the security of the region and Muslim world was of prime importance.

“We believe all countries should spare no efforts to restore sustainable security. The region is now suffering from terrorism and all should share hands to fight against them,” the Iranian leader said.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan as two brotherly and neighbourly states enjoy ample of commonalities,” he added.

He reiterated that over the past 70 years, Iran had always stood by Pakistani nation.

He called for all-out efforts to make progress and boosting and consolidating mutual cooperation to hit the record of $5 billion of trade exchanges between the two countries.

President Rouhani said that Iran was ready to meet Pakistan’s demands in the energy sector, adding that a pipeline transferring Iran’s gas to Pakistan (Peace Pipeline) had reached near the Pakistan border. “We hope Pakistan will make proper action in order to finalise the project.Chabahar port of Iran and Gwadar port in Pakistan can ease exchange of goods between the two countries,” he added.

Speaker Sadiq expressed satisfaction over his visit and said that exchange of visits between officials of the two sides would help bolster mutual relations and cooperation.

He underlined that the officials and diplomats of the two sides should spare no efforts to further broaden relations between Tehran and Islamabad.

He agreed that the expansion of cooperation between Chabahar and Gwadar ports could help improve economic cooperation between the two countries.

Referring to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he sought Iran’s cooperation in construction of the project.

Mr Sadiq said Pakistan required Iran’s energy, mainly its gas, and expressed willingness to help finalise the Peace Pipeline project.

Restoration of peace and stability would benefit all countries in the region, he added.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2017