ISLAMABAD            -            Only a day before heading to his foreign trip to defuse tensions in the Gulf, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday hoped that Iran’s confession of hitting Ukrainian passenger jet would de-escalate the situation.

“Pakistan has a stance that the region cannot afford any conflict or war,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Office quoting the foreign minister. He added that Pakistan would continue its efforts to de-escalate the situation.

Ms Aisha Farooqui, the spokesperson of the Foreign Office confirmed to The Nation that the foreign minister is visiting Tehran on January 12 (today) and Riyadh on January 13.

Qurush is embarking on this regional trip offering Pakistan’s help to defuse tensions prevailing between Iran and US, in the Middle East, and the Gulf following the killing of top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in a US airstrike. Soleimani, the head of Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, was widely regarded as Iran’s second most powerful man.

According to diplomatic sources, the foreign minister would be visiting Washington on January 17. However, Foreign Office didn’t make a confirmation of exact date of his US visit.

“I am heading to Iran on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan where I will meet with the Iranian leadership,” said the FO statement.

After this, I will visit Saudi Arabia and meet my Saudi counterpart, Qureshi said in the statement, adding that he would make a visit to US after the conclusion of his visit to both countries. He also said that a recent statement of US President Donald Trump has given a ray of hope that there would be de-escalation the situation.

US has said that it is s ready to start serious negotiations with Iran without any preconditions.

Separately, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Saturday made a telephonic contact with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and condemned the Quetta blast and condoled with him over the loss of precious lives, said a separate statement issued by FO.

During conversation, Turkish foreign minister gave an analysis to Qureshi about the Middle East situation following his recent visit to Iraq. Qureshi informed his Turkish counterpart about the telephonic contact he made with Iraqi foreign minister recently.

The foreign minister also told his Turkish counterpart about his next foreign trips to three countries as part of Pakistan’s peace initiative. Turkish foreign minister appreciated Pakistan’s efforts and showed his full support over the peace efforts.

Before this, Qureshi as part of Pakistan’s efforts for peace and resume normalcy in the region has made a number of telephonic contacts with his counterparts to take them into confidence over the situation.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed the foreign minister to visit Tehran, Riyadh and Washington to meet with his respective counterparts and Secretary of State.

PM had taken to Twitter to say that Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa will “contact relevant military leaders to convey a clear message: Pakistan is ready to play its role for peace but can never again be part of any war.”

Qureshi in a policy statement in the parliament has already said that Pakistan would not be part of any regional conflict in the wake of escalation of tensions between the US and Iran. “We are clear in our stance that our soil will not be used against any other state,” said Qureshi while speaking in Senate on Monday regarding the situation resulting from the killing of Soleimani by US.

“Pakistan could be a party to any peace initiative, but not a regional conflict,” he had said adding that Pakistan would not support any unilateral action. He had called upon all sides to show restraint.

 

 

Pakistan to continue efforts to defuse ME tension: FM