ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Friday claimed Pakis­tan had played a role in facilitating the dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“It is obvious that this [Saudi-Iran] agreement is a result of the mediation efforts of China and the constructive talks that took it facilitated and the two sides were able to resolve their differences,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told a weekly press briefing.

“We welcome this development. Pakistan like several other countries and friends of both Iran and Saudi Arabia played their part in facilitating the dialogue,” she added.

In this context, the spokesperson recalled that the first meeting of the two foreign ministers took place in Islamabad on the sidelines of an OIC meeting.

“But we do not wish to take away credit from China in this latest agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia on normalisation of relations and congratulate them for their successful diplomatic efforts,” she said.

Says first meeting of two foreign ministers took place on the sidelines of OIC session in Islamabad

Ms Baloch said Pakistan commends China’s visionary leadership in coordinating this historic agreement.

“We believe that this diplomatic breakthrough will contribute to peace and stability in the region and beyond. We hope this normalisation would define a template for regional cooperation and harmony,” she remarked.

In reply to a question about a negative tweet by a PTI leader about Pakistan-China ties, she said that Islamabad’s relationship with Beijing is decades old.

“It is a relationship that has continued to grow in strength over the last several decades. We have been friends through good times and tough times, despite changing situation around us, international developments, and any domestic developments in Pakistan or in China. Both sides are committed to this relationship. One statement by some individual cannot in any way damage this relationship, because it is based on mutual trust, on mutual confidence and the support of the peoples of Pakistan and China, who have for generations supported Pakistan-China friendship,” she said.

Answering a question, the spokesperson said Pakistan has continued to call for peace in the region and security for all its friends, including Saudi Arabia.

“We hope that with this agreement and the normalisation of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, there will be progress on outstanding issues including any differences that they have on Yemen. We hope this would have peace dividends for the region including in Yemen,” she remarked.

When asked to comment on reports that China has deman­ded payments from Pakistan overdue on the Chinese independent power plants installed under the CPEC, she stressed that Pakistan and China were “all-weather strategic cooperative partners”.

She said China was a consistent, generous and steadfast friend that has stood by Pakistan for the last several decades. China came and invested in Pakistan’s power sector under CPEC when no foreign investor was ready to invest in the country.

“This investment resulted in economic development to the country and helped us in overcoming shortage and breakdowns. We are grateful to our Chinese friends for their consistent commitment to Pakistan, to CPEC and for investments in Pakistan. The claims that you have mentioned being made in the media have taken an inter-governmental conversation completely out of context by adding sensationalist jargon to it. Let me underline that Pakistan and China consult closely on all matters and find optimal win-win outcomes and we will continue to do that. The people of Pakistan are proud of our friendship with China, which has always come to Pakistan’s assistance when most needed, including in this difficult economic situation,” she said.

The spokesperson said Pakistan was deeply concerned at the world-wide increase in racism, xenophobia and violence motivated by Islamophobia, which is manifesting itself in negative profiling and stigmatisation of Muslims, vandalisation of Islamic symbols and holy sites, discriminatory laws and policies, ban on Hijab, and attacks on mosques. She said that Pakistan was also concerned about rising hate crime against Muslims including burning of the holy Quran in Europe.

“We call for fostering global dialogue to promote a culture of peace and tolerance and to raise awareness to combat Islamophobia.”

In this context, she also condemned the recent remarks made by a BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister in Karnataka, K.S. Eshwarappa.

“These remarks are yet another manifestation of the rising Islamophobia in India. Pakistan is deeply concerned at the alarming rise in communal violence and hatred directed against Muslims in India, who are being systematically stigmatised and marginalised on account of their faith. We call on India to take immediate steps to ensure safety, security, and well-being of minorities and allow them to profess and practice their faith in peace.”

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2023

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