WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan was one of the world leaders who had engaged in an “off-ramp” diplomacy to defuse recent tensions between Iran and the United States, an official of the US State Department said on Monday.
“The off-ramp has been there for three years. The Iranians keep projecting it. And it’s not just us,” said the official during a briefing earlier this week on the current Iran-US conflict.
“French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Khan in Pakistan and Sultan of Oman — all these countries from all parts of the world have reached out to the regime” in Iran, the official added.
After the assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday, Pakistan urged both the United States and Iran to avoid further escalation.
On Sunday, Pakistan reaffirmed its resolve not to become a part of any conflict in the region and renewed its offer for mediating in the Middle East crisis.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had visited the Iranian capital in October as part of an initiative to defuse tensions in the Gulf and mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He also visited Saudi Arabia for further talks on the matter.
In Washington, the State Department official claimed that world leaders had “failed to get the supreme leader (of Iran) to make better decisions”, forcing Washington to take actions like bringing economic sanctions and assassinating Gen Soleimani.
Instead of focusing on diplomacy to resolve his disputes with the United States, the Iranian leader was busy “managing economic collapse and a political crisis, and the death of his Qods Force leader”, the US official alleged.
Iran has rejected such claims as incorrect, pointing out that it was President Donald Trump who walked out of a peace treaty negotiated by the previous US administration.
Iranian leaders say that they had participated in all international efforts to find a negotiated settlement, but the Trump administration has always been more interested in sanctions and military actions than talks.
Iran announced on Sunday it would no longer abide by the limits placed on its nuclear programme under a deal it signed with the United States and other world powers in 2015. Besides the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain signed this treaty.
President Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in May 2018 and justified his unilateral action by saying the accord was flawed. The agreement offered Tehran relief from stinging sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear weapons programme.
“Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired,” observed The New York Times while commenting on Tehran’s announcement and Washington’s decision to eliminate Gen Soleimani.
But Germany, France and Britain have urged Tehran to drop measures that go against the agreement.
“We call on Iran to withdraw all measures that are not in line with the nuclear agreement,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a joint statement.
The European leaders reminded the US and Iran that “it is crucial now to de-escalate” and urged “all players involved to show utmost restraint and responsibility”.
They also warned against jeopardising the gains made against the militant Islamic State group, alluding to the adoption of a resolution by Iraq’s parliament calling upon Washington to withdraw its troops from the country at the earliest.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2020