PM Imran says he is mediating with Iran after Trump asked him to help

Updated September 25, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses a press conference in New York on Tuesday. — AFP
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses a press conference in New York on Tuesday. — AFP

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said that US President Donald Trump had asked him to help defuse tensions with Iran, adding that he had already spoken with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an attempt to mediate.

While addressing a press conference in New York, the premier said: "I immediately spoke to President Rouhani yesterday after the meeting with President Trump, but I can't say anything right now more than this except that we're trying and mediating."

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions on Iran in a stated campaign of "maximum pressure".

The United States blames Iran for an attack on the world's biggest crude oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia on September 14 and has said they will present evidence to back that up.

Prime Minister Imran said that prior to arriving in New York he had visited Saudi Arabia and spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who also asked him to talk to Rouhani.

When President Trump was asked about Imran's remarks, he said the premier would like to mediate, adding: "We have a very good relationship and there's a chance that that could happen".

"A lot of people would like to get us to the table. We'll see what happens but so far we have not agreed to a meeting," Trump said on a possible meeting with Rouhani while they are both in New York this week.

Plight of 8 million Kashmiris

During the press conference, Prime Minister Imran highlighted the plight of eight million Kashmiris who are suffering "in an open jail" under a lockdown in India-occupied Kashmir and warned against the possible massacre of residents once the curfew is lifted.

The India-occupied region has been facing a clampdown since August 5, when the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, stripping it of its special status.

Thousands of people, mostly political leaders, have also been reportedly detained or arrested since the move.

The premier shared his conversations with various people he met in the city, who had relayed their stories of not being able to contact their relatives and family members.

"We know of mass arrests. We know that the entire leadership of Kashmir — even those leaders who were pro-India — are now in jails, somewhere in India.

"We know that young people, boys have been picked up. We know that [even] hospitals aren't functioning," he said.

"My whole point of coming here was to highlight this. This is unprecedented in this day and age."

The prime minister said that India's claim that this is an internal issue and that the world should stay out of it is "nonsense".

He reminded the media that there are 11 UN Security Council resolutions that recognise the fact that Kashmir is a disputed territory and give the right of self-determination to its residents through a plebiscite.

He said that the fear now is that the BJP-led government are set on changing the demography of the region, an action tantamount to "war crimes" under the Geneva conventions.

He said that a bigger worry was regarding what will happen after the curfew imposed by India in occupied Kashmir is lifted.

"I fear that after the curfew is lifted, there would be a massacre [of Kashmiris] by the 900,000 Indian troops deployed there," said the premier.

"What will happen when the curfew in Kashmir is lifted? Post the loss of lives, do you think the people of Kashmir will accept the status quo? There’s a likelihood of a massacre and the world community will be responsible [for it]," he added.

"Once a conflict starts between two nuclear armed nations, it goes beyond our hands. I have said this to the Indian people too. And it is madness to allow this situation to deteriorate further."

"I also fear that whatever happens in Kashmir, India would blame Pakistan for it," he added, referring to India's blame on Pakistan for the February attack on its military convoy by a Kashmiri boy.

"I went on air and said if you give us any proof, we will take action. Before any proof could come, the Indian jets arrived; they bombed us," he said.

The premier regretted that following retaliation by Pakistan Air Force which downed Indian jets and captured their pilot, the peace gesture shown by Pakistan to immediately return the airforce officer was "taken as weakness".

The prime minister reminded all those listening that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who subscribes to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology, was responsible for the massacre in Gujrat that took place in 2002.

"Unfortunately, India today is governed by a racist, Hindu supremacist party RSS which was once banned in India [...] Just google it and you will find that [Benito] Mussolini (former Prime Minister of Italy) was their hero."

"When I came to power, I called Modi and said that we have similar problems. I told him that our problem is poverty above everything [...] but there was no response [...] they tried to push us into the blacklist of the FATF," said the prime minister.

"Their agenda came forward on August 5," he added, referring to the day when Modi issued a presidential decree revoking Kashmir's autonomous status.

PM Imran said that Modi had remarked that "Pakistan should stop terrorism" but questioned the state terrorism on the part of India and asked what the justification for jailing eight million people was.

"What is happening to Kashmiris, is also a responsibility of the United Nations," he said urging world leaders to not remain bystanders to the suffering of so many.

"If ever the Security Council were to move it is now," the premier declared.

"Eight million people are locked inside for 50 days [...] this has the potential to reach the unthinkable."

"For what purpose was the UN established?" he asked, expressing his disappointment over the lukewarm response shown thus far by the global community over the issue.

"How can the global community remain silent when eight million people are being treated worse than animals?" he asked.

"To be absolutely frank, I am disappointed by the international community. If eight million Europeans, or Christians or Jews or Americans were put under siege [...] well even if eight Americans had been put under siege [...] you can imagine the reaction."

"Over one billion Muslims are watching this unfold. But where is the world community? This will have repercussions and will create radicalisation. I am flagging this right now."

"After the UNGA we’ll have an OIC summit. We’ll gather all Muslim leaders. The only reason why Kashmiris are subjected to this is, they’re Muslims. That’s why it’s important for the Muslim world to take a stance. Otherwise, this will lead to radicalisation."