After holding “wide-ranging consultations” on his visit to Iran, Prime Minister Imran Khan will be leaving for Saudi Arabia today (Tuesday) to act as a facilitator in addressing Saudi-Iran tensions through dialogue and avert any conflict in the Gulf region.
On his one-day visit, the Pakistani premier will hold meetings with the Saudi leadership to formulate solutions for reducing the escalating tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.
PM Khan had earlier held talks with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Sunday.
“Pakistan attaches high importance to bilateral ties with Iran,” the prime minister was quoted as saying by the PTI, during his visit to Iran. “Pakistan is willing to play its role towards strengthening peace and stability in the region.”
The Pakistani premier said his main reason for visiting Iran is that Pakistan doesn’t want conflict in the region. “We do not want another conflict in this part of the world,” he said.
“Iran is our neighbour. Ties with Iran go way back. Saudi Arabia has been one of our closest friends. They have helped us when we have been in need. We do not want a conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. We recognise that it is a complex issue, but it is something, we feel, can be resolved through dialogue,” the premier said, adding that there are vested interests that want this conflict to take place, but we must not allow it.
He said the trip was purely a Pakistan initiative, he stressed. “We haven’t been asked by anyone to do this,” he said.
Khan did, however, say that he was approached by US President Donald Trump to “facilitate some sort of dialogue between Iran and the United States”.
Iranian President Rouhani said, “I told Prime Minister Imran we welcome any gesture by Pakistan for peace in the region and appreciate his visit to our country.” He said that the two leaders had discussed the war in Yemen and the sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran among many other issues.
Pakistan has favourable relations with Saudi Arabia, with more than 2.5 million nationals living and working in the kingdom, but it also maintains strong relations with Iran and represents Tehran’s consular interests in the US.