We’ll do anything to douse fire in Middle East: PM

October 14, 2019

TEHRAN - Pakistan will do its utmost to facilitate talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday in Tehran, at a joint news conference with President Hassan Rouhani. “Pakistan does not want conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia...I am happy to facilitate talks between Tehran and Riyadh...I am very hopeful as I had constructive talks with the (Iranian) president,” the prime minister said. He said Pakistan had hosted talks between the two brotherly Muslim countries in the past and was again willing to do so. “The issue is complex one but it is possible to sort out differences through dialogue,” he emphasised at the news conference, broadcast live on state TV.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who along with his delegation arrived here on a day-long visit, earlier held wide-ranging talks with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani. He was scheduled to later meet Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. At the press talk, Imran Khan also said that during his visit to New York US President Donald Trump had asked him to facilitate dialogue with Iran. Rouhani says Iran to give positive response to any goodwill He assured the Iranian leadership that Islamabad would do whatever it could to facilitate Tehran-Washington dialogue, so that the sanctions could be lifted and agreement over the nuclear deal be signed.

President Rouhani

Speaking on the occasion, Iranian President Rouhani said Iran and Pakistan were the brotherly and friendly nations enjoying deep strategic relations. He said they openly welcomed the good will gesture by Pakistan and were ready to assist it in its efforts for peace and stability in the region. Appreciating the prime minister’s initiative, the president said his visit would have benefits. Describing his talks with the Pakistani premier as ‘promising’, Rouhani said in their meeting they discussed a variety of issues significant for the region and the whole globe, including the recent developments in the Gulf. “We also emphasized that good will gesture would be responded with good will gesture and words,” he added, emphasising on the need for strengthening of peace and stability in the region. The president noted that emphasis on termination of war in Yemen and humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen would bring peace and stability in the region, adding the issue could be resolved through political dialogue. He decried the pressing sanctions of US and demanded the US to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, so that it could be implemented. He also demanded immediate lifting of the US sanctions. In May last year, President Trump had announced US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA followed by imposition of sanctions.

‘Pakistan’s initiative’

Terming his consultations with the Iranian president ‘very encouraging’, Imran Khan said he would go to Saudi Arabia with a positive mind. He explained that his trip to both the countries was solely ‘Pakistan’s initiative’ as they were not asked by anyone to undertake such trip. He also made it clear that Pakistan would play the role of a facilitator and not a mediator. Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked Iran for supporting people of Indian Occupied Kashmir, where eight million people had been put under unrelenting curfew for more than two months. “It is the biggest humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region,” he added. 

He said Pakistan had deep rooted bilateral brotherly ties with Iran and Saudi Arabia was Pakistan’s closest friend as it had always helped them when they were in need. This was why they wanted to avoid any conflict between them. Imran said a conflict between the two countries would not only affect the whole region but also the developing countries across the world as it would increase poverty because of surge in oil prices in the global market. All the developing countries therefore also wanted de-escalation of tensions, only some vested interests wanted this conflict to take place, he said, stressing that it was imperative for everyone not to allow any conflict to take place in the region.

The prime minister said Pakistan had suffered 70,000 casualties in the war on terror, while Afghanistan and Syria were still reeling from the conflicts. “We do not want another conflict in this region.” He said during their meeting they also discussed bilateral ties, trade and host of other issues of mutual interests and the ways to help each other. Khan said it was his fourth meeting with the Iranian president, as he met him first in April, second in New York while the third time he had a brief interaction with him at Bishkek. He noted that Pakistan enjoyed strong ties with Iran and they still remembered how Iran stood with Pakistan in 1965 while facing hostilities.

PM-President meeting

Earlier, during his meeting with President Hassan Rouhani, the prime minister highlighted the historic ties and the tradition of close cooperation between the two countries. He reiterated his commitment to further strengthen bilateral relations in diverse areas, with a particular focus on enhanced trade and economic cooperation. Close cooperative ties with Iran have always been a priority for Pakistan, the prime minister remarked. The prime minister apprised President Rouhani of the dire human rights and humanitarian situation created since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of August 5 and the serious risk posed to peace and security in the region. He thanked Iran’s support to the besieged people of the occupied valley. The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Special Assistant to PM Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari and other senior officials of the two countries.

Iranian news agency IRNA reported that during the meeting, President Hassan Rouhani stressed that all areas were ready for the realization of the $5 billion trade between Tehran and Islamabad. He expressed Iran’s will to develop economic relations with all its neighbours, including Pakistan. He pointed out that cooperation in the fields of energy, transport, transit, ports and shipping, development of border markets and technology transfer can strengthen the two countries’ relations. Rouhani described a ceasefire in Yemen as the first step in reducing tensions in the region and said that Iran supports any positive action in this regard. He also noted that regional security must be provided by countries of the region as the foreign intervention was increasingly leading to insecurity.

Referring to attack on the Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Saudi Arabia on Friday and the repetition of such events causing insecurity in the region’s waterways, he claimed that Iran had evidence in this regard that proved involvement of the main perpetrators of those action. During the meeting, the president also stated that the only regime that benefits from any tension in the region was the Zionist regime of Israel. He said maintaining peace and stability in the region, including the Persian Gulf, and securing the freedom and security of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz was the definite policy of Iran which could only be pursued successfully with the help and participation of all the countries of the region. The president praised the goodwill and efforts of Pakistan to help ease tensions in the region and welcomed any steps along the way. He however remarked that the US demand for negotiations without first lifting the sanctions smacked of insincerity and added that Iran was ready to negotiate if sanctions are lifted.

Khan-Khamenei meeting

Earlier during their meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the Muslim Umma was faced with numerous challenges, both from internally as well as from the outside, therefore it was important to articulate a message of unity and solidarity among the Muslim nations. The prime minister said this in a meeting with Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in Tehran during his visit the neighboring country as a part of his initiative to promote peace and security in the region, a PM Office statement said. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Special Assistant to PM Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari were also present during the meeting. The prime minister thanked the supreme leader for support to the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir for their right to self-determination. He conveyed that the people of Pakistan deeply valued the personal commitment of Iran’s supreme leader to the cause of Kashmir. He reaffirmed his resolve to comprehensively upgrade Pakistan-Iran relations and apprised the supreme leader of his initiative for regional peace and security.

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