ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday announced that Saudi Arabia had positively responded to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative for defusing tensions in the Gulf region by agreeing to give peace a chance.
“Saudi leaders have responded positively. It has been agreed that diplomacy would be preferred and differences would be resolved through dialogue. We had a good start,” FM Qureshi told media persons at a press briefing at the Foreign Office on the prime minister’s visit to the kingdom on Tuesday where the PM urged the Saudi leadership to peacefully resolve the regional disputes.
The prime minister had during his visit to Saudi Arabia met King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Mr Qureshi said that during the talks in Riyadh, the Pakistani delegation shared Islamabad’s perspective on the regional conflict, its assessment of the situation and the “Iranian sentiments”.
FM says clouds of war that had gathered over region are now dispersing
Mr Khan had last Sunday visited Tehran where the Iranian leadership welcomed his efforts. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, in an interview, said Tehran was ready for talks with Riyadh both directly and through intermediaries and that Pakistani efforts in this regard were welcome.
“If I were to present to you the crux of our discussion, I would say that the clouds of war and conflict that had gathered over the region are now dispersing,” Mr Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said that Pakistan’s prime objective for the initiative was to prevent a military conflict that could have had devastating consequences for the region and the global economy.
Responding to a question, he said that chances of a ceasefire in Yemen were brighter than ever before.
The Prime Minister Office, meanwhile, in a statement on the Saudi visit, described the talks with the Saudi leadership as “comprehensive and constructive”. It said the two sides agreed on “remaining engaged” and continuing consultations for taking the process forward.
Mr Khan had in the meetings conveyed Pakistan’s readiness to facilitate efforts to deescalate tensions and resolve differences and disputes through peaceful means, the statement added.
The mechanism for taking the process forward was being negotiated, Mr Qureshi said.
Earlier on Sunday, PM Khan during his visit to Tehran had offered to host Iran-Saudi Arabia talks. Being fully cognisant of the complexity of the dispute in the Gulf, Pakistan began the mediation effort, the foreign minister said while recalling similar initiatives that the country had taken in the past. The positive engagements in Tehran and Riyadh were cause of hope, he maintained.
Besides pushing the peace agenda, Mr Khan briefed the Saudi leadership about the situation in India-held Kashmir, where India continues with its repressive actions including continuous lockdown, curfew and communication restrictions for 70 days that had severely impacted the lives of over eight million Kashmiris.
He said the situation in India-held Kashmir had seriously imperiled peace and security in the region. The Saudi leaders, according to the PM Office, reiterated support for the Kashmir cause and highlighted the need for avoiding escalation of tensions (in the Subcontinent) and peaceful resolution of the dispute.
“The Saudi leadership reaffirmed its commitment to close ties with Pakistan and reiterated the resolve to deepen bilateral collaboration in all fields including trade, energy, security and defence,” the statement added.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2019