ISLAMABAD - Pakistan will brief the United States today over the tension in the Middle East and Islamabad’s role to ensure peace.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was in New York yesterday to meet UN leadership before proceeding to Washington. A foreign ministry statement said Foreign Minister Qureshi will visit Washington on January 16 to meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor Robert O Brien and other senior Administration officials.

“The Foreign Minister will also have meetings on the Capitol Hill, besides engagements with the media, think tank community and the Pakistani Diaspora,” said the statement.

Pakistan is leading a successful campaign to ensure peace in the Middle East amid US-Iran tensions. Foreign Minister Qureshi, who visited Iran and Saudi Arabia from January 11-13 held talks with counterparts Javad Zarif and Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. In Tehran Qureshi also met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

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

Fears of US-Iran war sparked after the US assassinated Iran’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani in an air strike at Baghdad’s international airport on January 3.

In retaliation, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Assad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province and a military facility in Erbil.

Hours later, a Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752 bound for Kyiv crashed after takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, adding to the tension.

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 came as tensions mounted 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.

The foreign ministry said Qureshi will visit Washington on “16-17 January 2020” after meeting UN leadership including the Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

In the official talks, the Foreign Minister will focus on Pakistan’s diplomatic outreach, which has been undertaken on the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan in the wake of the recent tensions in the Middle East and the Gulf Region.

“The objective is to support efforts for de-escalation and resolution of differences and disputes through political and diplomatic means. The Foreign Minister’s visit to the US is part of these endeavours,” the foreign ministry said.

The Foreign Minister, while reviewing full spectrum of bilateral relationship, will underscore the value Pakistan attaches to a broad-based, long-term and enduring partnership with the U.S in line with the vision of the leaders of the two countries, it added.

The Foreign Minister will also brief his interlocutors on the prevailing situation in held Kashmir, especially the prolonged sufferings of the Kashmir is caused by India’s unilateral and illegal actions of August 5, 2019.

The Foreign Minister will also highlight Pakistan’s role and continued resolve to support the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, it said.

Amid the tension in the region, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells will also travel to Pakistan from January 19 to January 22 for talks.

Wells will also visit Sri Lanka and India before reaching Pakistan. Her Pakistan trip will be a part of her 10-day visit to the region.

Alice Wells, who is a regular visit to Pakistan, will hold meetings with senior government officials to deliberate upon the matters of mutual and regional interests as the whole world is trying to defuse US-Iran tension.