ISLAMABAD           -           Pakistan is leading a successful campaign to ensure peace in the Middle East amid US-Iran tensions.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who visited Iran and Saudi Arabia from January 11-13, briefed his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud yesterday after a two-day visit to Iran.

In Tehran Qureshi met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had last week directed Qureshi to visit Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The FM will visit the US soon to brief them about the talks with Iran and Saudi Arabia. There were reports that he might fly straight from Riyadh to Washington but Foreign Office spokesperson said there was “no such thing.”

But the FM is expected to visit Washington in the coming days as part of the peace efforts.

A foreign ministry statement says as part of his trip to regional countries on the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan,  Foreign Minister Qureshi visited Riyadh on January 13 and had “an in-depth exchange of views on recent developments with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. During the meeting, bilateral matters were also discussed.”

The FM underscored that the fraternal ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were deep-rooted and multi-faceted and the strategic relationship between the two countries was growing in myriad dimensions.    

He shared in detail Pakistan’s perspective on the recent developments in the Middle East/Gulf region. 

The foreign minister highlighted the thrust of his diplomatic outreach as part of Prime Minister’s direction that Pakistan must support all efforts aimed at avoiding conflict and resolving differences and disputes through political and diplomatic means. 

The foreign minister apprised his Saudi counterpart about his telephonic conversations with the foreign ministers of regional countries, and other diplomatic contacts, noting an overwhelming level of support for efforts for de-escalation. 

Noting the serious implications for peace and security of recent events, the foreign minister underscored the need for all sides to exercise maximum restraint, avoid taking any further escalatory step, work for defusing tensions, and finding ways for constructive engagement. 

As “partner for peace,” the foreign minister stated that Pakistan would support all efforts for peace and provide all possible facilitation for constructive engagement among parties.

The foreign minister also appreciated Saudi Arabia’s steadfast support for the Kashmir issue and exchanged views on deepening bilateral cooperation in economic and financial fields. 

The Saudi Foreign Minister reaffirmed the strategic importance of Saudi-Pakistan relations and the resolve to deepen mutual cooperation in all fields.

In the regional context, the Saudi Foreign Minister welcomed the Foreign Minister’s visit and Pakistan’s support for efforts to defuse tensions, preserve peace and security, and help find a diplomatic way forward. 

The two sides agreed to remain engaged and consult closely on issues affecting peace and security in the region and beyond, the statement added.

For decades Pakistan has tried to balance its strong relationship with Saudi Arabia and ties with Iran, with whom it shares a near 1,000-kilometre border.

The FM’s visit comes as tensions mount across the Middle East following the 62-year-old general’s death in Iraq, and Iran’s admission that it shot down an airliner by mistake, killing 176 people on board.

Last year Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan travelled between Saudi Arabia and Iran in a bid to calm relations between the rivals.

Earlier, the foreign minister visited Iran on 12-13 January, on the first leg of his visit to regional countries with a view to supporting efforts for defusing tensions and promoting a diplomatic way forward.   

The foreign minister called on President Dr. Hassan Rouhani and had a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. 

In these meetings, there was a wide-ranging exchange of views on recent developments in the Middle East/Gulf region. Pakistan-Iran relations were also discussed.   

The foreign minister reaffirmed the importance Pakistan attached to its close fraternal ties with Iran and reiterated the resolve to further strengthen the historic, multifaceted relationship between the two countries, a foreign ministry statement said. 

Sharing Pakistan’s perspective in detail on the recent developments, Qureshi emphasised the importance of maximum restraint and immediate steps for de-escalation by all sides. He said war was in nobody’s interest and it was imperative to resolve the issues through dialogue and diplomacy. 

He informed the Iranian leadership about his telephonic conversations with his counterparts in the region and said that there was a general consensus in favour of immediate de-escalation and avoidance of war.    

The foreign minister reiterated that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used against anyone; nor would Pakistan be a part of any war or conflict in the region. He reaffirmed that Pakistan could only be a partner for peace. 

The foreign minister said that Pakistan appreciated Iran’s preference for de-escalation of tensions and expressed the hope that Iran would continue to act with its traditional wisdom in dealing with the issues at hand.  

Qureshi underlined that despite the complexity of issues involved, Pakistan would continue to work for peace as this was in the collective interest of the region and the world. In this context, Pakistan would also continue to urge constructive engagement among all sides to preserve the peace and advance the prospects of a diplomatic solution. 

The foreign minister conveyed Pakistan’s appreciation for Iran’s steadfast support for Kashmiris’ right of self-determination and for early resolution of the issue in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions.  

President Dr. Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif expressed appreciation for the Foreign Minister’s visit and stressed the importance Iran attached to its brotherly relations with Pakistan. They noted that the key feature of this people-centric relationship was that both countries stood by each other in times of need.  

In the context of the current situation, they stressed that Iran also preferred de-escalation of tensions and preservation of peace and stability in the region. All sides had responsibilities in this regard. 

The Iranian leadership appreciated Prime Minister Imran Khan’s efforts aimed at reducing tensions and advancing the prospects of peace through facilitation of diplomatic and political means. They said that Iran had supported the Prime Minister’s initiative in the past and welcomed the present efforts as well. 

Yesterday, a senior Iranian diplomat suggested an “inclusive and comprehensive intra-regional dialogue” as the way out of the current crisis in the Middle East and said that Tehran would encourage Pakistan to continue its efforts for defusing tensions.

“All of us should instead opt for and subscribe to a paradigm of regional inclusivity and synergy, as the only realistic way out of the current cycle of crises,” Masoud Zamani, counselor at the Embassy of Iran said at a roundtable conference organized by Islamabad Policy Institute.

Zamani said, contrary to general perception, the solution to the latest crisis was “within reach and accessible.” He, however, said that this would require honest commitment to peace and partnership from all the countries in the region.  Noting that security cannot be achieved through “hurling stones at the neighbour’s house,” he regretted that some countries in the neighbourhood believed in acquisition of foreign arms and “purchasing security and legitimacy” from others.

“Resort to war, considered an exception in international relations, has unfortunately become a norm and rule in the region due to the attitude and conduct of the U.S. and its followers. This is a vicious circle that must be broken by the regional actors and all those committed to peace, quiet, and stability,” he maintained.

Speaking about Pakistan’s efforts for reduction of tensions, Zamani said those were welcome and Iran encourages Pakistan to continue them.