ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Tuesday told Iran that harsh statements could damage the friendly ties between the two neighbours.

Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost was called to the Foreign Office to convey Pakistan’s concerns over the reported remarks of the Iranian Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Major-Gen Mohammad Baqeri who had warned that Tehran would hit inside Pakistan if Islamabad failed to stop militants from cross-border attacks.

A foreign ministry statement said: “It was conveyed to the Iranian ambassador that such remarks were against the spirit of brotherly relations existing between the two countries.”

Recently, the statement said, the frequency of high-level exchanges from both the sides had strengthened the bilateral cooperation and during the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to Islamabad on May 3, the two sides had agreed to enhance cooperation on the border issues.

“The Iranian side was urged to avoid issuance of such statements that could vitiate the environment of fraternal relations,” it said.

Earlier, Iranian Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli told his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that Tehran suspected smuggling of narcotics and illegal crossing into Iran by Afghan nationals from the Pakistani border. The Iranian minister invited Nisar to visit Iran to discuss the bilateral issues.

Last month, 10 Iranian border guards were killed by militants. Tehran claimed the militants fired from the Pakistani side of the border.

The tension with Iran comes at a time when Pakistan is already engaged in a conflict with Afghanistan. Pakistan retaliated after the Afghan forces targeted a Pakistan census team escorted by security personnel in two villages along Chaman border last week. There have been deaths on both sides of the border.

For the past several weeks, Pakistan has been trying to convince Iran to join the Saudi-led military alliance. The force is being led by former Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif.

Iran, however, sees the Saudi-led coalition as an alliance of the Sunni states with some hidden agenda instead of the joint efforts against terrorism. Iraq, the other Shia-majority country, is also not a member of the alliance.

Pakistan had been trying to clarify its position and convince Iran on the genuineness of the Saudi alliance’s agenda.

Iranian ambassador Honardoost publically raised concerns over Raheel Sharif’s appointment as the head of the Saudi-led military alliance.

The government issued the no-objection certificate to the retired general last month and he left for Riyadh to take charge of his new assignment.

Iran and Saudi Arabia – two important Muslim countries – have serious disagreements on regional and international issues. On the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, the two countries are poles apart.

International affairs expert Dr Huma Baqai said Pakistan and Iran had historic ties and as Muslim nations, they should not confront each other.

“Iran has always been our friend and we should try to remove misunderstandings through talks. Same should be done with Afghanistan,” she said.

Dr Baqai said that Pakistan was a friend to both Iran and Saudi Arabia. “Our policy should be to work with both of them. We cannot allow our soil to be used against Iran or any other country. There is, of course, a misconception (against Pakistan),” she added.

Monitoring Desk adds: Another senior Iranian military official said it is Iran’s “inalienable and legal right to confront and destroy terrorists’ dens in any depths of the neighbouring country’s soil, in case the Pakistani government takes no serious measure.”

The statement comes a day after the Iranian Chief of Army Staff warned of launching attacks against terrorist ‘safe havens’ operating along the Pak-Iran border.

Speaking to Iranian news agency Fars, Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Army Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan expressed his regret on what he observed was Pakistan’s inability to curb terrorism. “Unfortunately, the regions adjacent to Iran’s eastern borders have turned into a shelter and place for training, preparing and equipping the terrorists who are mercenaries of Saudi Arabia and are supported by the US,” he said.

“I ask the government of friendly and neighbouring Pakistan, as this blind and cowardly act has taken place on their side of the border, to take a responsible step and identify, introduce and punish members of the terrorist and Takfiri groups, who are behind this crime, as soon as possible,” the brigadier said.

Talking to reporters recently, Quetta-based Iranian Consul General Mohammad Rafiei said Tehran has sought access to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadav. He said Iranian officials want to ask some questions from Jadav.