US-Iran row: In call with US Defence Sec, COAS stresses need for 'diplomatic engagement'

Updated 08 Jan 2020

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US Secretary of Defence Mark T. Esper (left) and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. — Reuters/File
US Secretary of Defence Mark T. Esper (left) and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. — Reuters/File

Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has called upon all concerned parties in the dangerously escalating conflict between US and Iran to "avoid rhetoric in favour of diplomatic engagement".

The rise in tensions between both countries comes after top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US drone attack in Iraq last week.

Following the move, Iran launched missile attacks on two US military bases in Iraq on Wednesday.

A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) today said that the army chief had received a phone call from US Secretary of Defence Mark T. Esper during which the ongoing tensions in the Middle East were discussed.

"The Secretary expressed that US doesn’t want to seek conflict, but will respond forcefully if necessary," said the ISPR statement.

According to the statement, Gen Bajwa said Pakistan supports de-escalation and "all initiatives which bring peace to the region".

"We call upon all concerned to avoid rhetoric in favour of diplomatic engagement. We all have worked a lot to bring peace in the region by fighting against terrorism," the statement quoted the army chief as saying.

Gen Bajwa said Pakistan will continue to play its "constructive part" in the Afghan reconciliation process so that further conflict in the region can be avoided.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan asked Gen Bajwa to "contact relevant military leaders to convey a clear message: Pakistan is ready to play it's role for peace but it can never again be part of any war."

A day earlier, in a statement on Twitter, Esper had acknowledged receiving "sound counsel" from Gen Bajwa as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Chinese, Iranian envoys call on COAS

Also on Wednesday, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing and Iranian ambassador Seyyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini separately called on the army chief at GHQ, the military's media wing said.

"Regional security situation including US-Iran standoff was discussed" during the meetings, the ISPR tweeted.