RIYADH: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi meets his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Monday.—INP
RIYADH: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi meets his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Monday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: Tehran and Riyadh on Monday welcomed Pakistan’s call for lowering of tensions in the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi visited Tehran and Riyadh to convey Pakistan’s desire to help in de-escalating the situation. Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed the foreign minister to undertake visits to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States in view of sharp escalation of tensions in the Middle East in the aftermath of the assassination of senior Iranian commander Gen Qassem Soleimani by the United States.

Mr Qureshi, who would on his way back visit Oman for condoling with the Royal family on the passing of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, is scheduled to travel for Washington in the last leg of the peace trip later this week.

Foreign Office in a statement at the end of the visit to the Kingdom, where Mr Qureshi met his counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, said Pakistan’s “support for efforts to defuse tensions, preserve peace and security, and help find a diplomatic way forward” was welcomed and the two foreign ministers agreed to continue their consultations and coordination of issues related to peace and security.

The FO said Mr Qureshi in his conversation with his counterpart warned about the serious implications of the latest escalation and urged maximum restraint and avoiding further escalation. He also called for exploring ways for constructive engagement with the opposite side for the sake of peace.

Qureshi conveys Islamabad’s desire to help de-escalate Middle East tensions

“Pakistan would support all efforts for peace and provide all possible facilitation for constructive engagement among parties,” he told Prince Faisal.

Iranian leaders too welcomed Pakistani initiative.

“The Iranian leadership appreciated Prime Minister Imran Khan’s efforts aimed at reducing tensions and advancing the prospects of peace through facilitation of diplomatic and political means. They said that Iran had supported the Prime Minister’s initiative in the past and welcomed the present efforts as well,” a FO statement read.

In Tehran, Mr Qureshi met with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani.

Mr Qureshi, meanwhile, tweeted: “Constructive and positive meeting with H.E President hassanrouhani. Reiterated effort to deescalate tensions to the President which he supports. We are committed to exercising every diplomatic effort to achieve regional security & are clear Pakistan soil will not be used for war.”

The Pakistan’s foreign minister was told that Iran did not want to escalate and desires to maintain peace and stability in the region. However, Iranian leaders emphasised that maintenance of peace was a shared responsibility of all stakeholders in the region.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to defend its interests but it never seeks to fan the flames of war in the region,” Iran’s official newswire IRNA quoted President Rouhani as having told Mr Qureshi.

The Iranian president further said that Tehran expected all countries to denounce US action with “decisive tone”.

In his conversations with the Iranian leaders, the foreign minister emphasised the imperativeness of resolving the contentious issues through dialogue and diplomacy.

Mr Qureshi also informed the Iranian leadership about Pakistan government’s policy decision about not allowing its territory to be used against anyone and not becoming a part of any war or conflict in the region. “Pakistan would only be a partner for peace,” he affirmed.

According to IRNA, the foreign minister said that Pakistan considered its border with Iran to be one of peace and friendship and would confront those who would seek to undermine this.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2020