ISLAMABAD    -   Pakistan will try to convince Saudi Arabia for talks with Iran when Prime Minister Imran Khan visits the Kingdom after a day-long visit to Tehran this weekend, officials said on Friday.

PM Khan, who earlier visited China this week, plans to hold talks with both the Iranian and Saudi leadership amid rising tensions in the Gulf. The premier decided to first visit Iran (on October 13 for a day-long visit) and then fly to Riyadh as a ‘mediator,’ officials said.

“The PM will try to convince Saudi Arabia for talks with Iran to resolve the issue. Pakistan holds both the countries important and wants peace in the region,” one senior official told The Nation, citing the decision-makers.

He said Pakistan had started the mediatory role which was promised by PM Khan during his recent visit to the United States. “We are per forming this role in Afghanistan too. We don’t want the Muslim-majority countries to fight,” he added.

Another official said PM was optimistic to convince Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman on talks with Iran to defuse the tension. “The PM will also highlight Kashmir issue in Tehran and Riyadh and seek their support,” he maintained.

In September, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that both the United States and Saudi Arabia had asked him to mediate with Iran to defuse tensions.

PM Khan had met both US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations, before which he had visited Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.

“Trump asked me that if we could de-escalate the situation and maybe come up with another deal. Yes, we did convey this, and yes, we’re trying our best,” PM Khan said.

He added: “I immediately spoke to President Rouhani after the meeting with President Trump. I can’t say anything right now more than this except that we’re trying and mediating.”

In Saudi Arabia, which was hit recently by attacks on its oil infrastructure blamed on Iran, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman “also asked me to talk to the Iranian president,” the premier said.

When asked about Khan’s remarks, Trump said PM Khan would like to mediate “and we have a very good relationship and there’s a chance that that could happen.” “A lot of people would like to get us to the table. We’ll see what happens but so far we have not agreed to a meeting,” Trump said on a possible meeting with Rouhani while they are both in New York.

In return, Imran Khan is seeking President Trump’s help on Kashmir to resolve the decades-old issue with India. The US blames Iran for an attack on the world’s biggest crude oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia on September 14 and had said they will present evidence to back that up. Yemen’s Houthi group, which has been fighting a Saudi-led coalition since 2015, has claimed responsibility. Iran denies involvement.

In 2016, the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had mediated between Saudi Arabia and Iran in a bid to defuse tensions between the two countries that soared after the hanging of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan traditionally has strong relations with Saudi Arabia but also maintains friendly ties with Iran, with Islamabad representing Tehran’s consular interests in the US in the absence of diplomatic relations.

In September, Gas companies of Pakistan and Iran signed extended Iran-Pakistan gas line agreement after mutual consent. The top officials of National Iranian Oil Company and Pakistan’s Inter-State Gas System signed the amended IP gas deal under which Pakistan will build the said pipeline by August 26, 2024, in its territory. After the agreement to extend the IP-GSPA, Iran withdrew legal notice it served on Pakistan on moving the arbitration court.

This year, Saudi Arabia started supplying oil to Pakistan on deferred payments worth $9.9 billion. Last October Saudi Arabia had announced an economic support package for Pakistan which included $3 billion for balance of external payments.

Riyadh also announced to provide Islamabad deferred payment facility for import of oil, worth more than $3 billion for three years - $3.2 billion per year - during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference on the invitation of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud. The loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports will help stave off an economic crisis.

Saudi Arabia is also investing $20 billion in various sectors of Pakistan in first phase. After his February visit to Pakistan, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman had said the next investment in Pakistan will even be huge.

Saudi Arabia announced seven investment agreements related to energy, tourism, minerals, petrochemicals, hotel industry events, and a $10 billion oil refinery and petrochemicals complex in the coastal city of Gwadar, where China is building a port.

Short-term projects worth $7 billion with a span of one to two years, medium-term projects worth $2 billion with a span of two to three years and long-term projects worth $12 billion with a span of three to five years are included in the agreements.

Saudi Arabia is interested in buying two LNG power plants including the Haveli Bahadur Shah Power Plant and Balloki Power Plant.