ISLAMABAD  -   Pakistan and Iran yesterday agreed for joint efforts for regional peace and enhance bilateral ties.

In a telephonic conversation between Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Syed Abbas Araghchi, the two countries also vowed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in all areas. “Both sides discussed matters of mutual interest,” said an official statement issued by the foreign office.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Tehmina Janjua illustrated Pakistan’s continued desire for peace and de-escalation of tensions in the region.

“Both the sides agreed to further expanding bilateral economic, trade and commercial relations,” he said.

Pakistan and Iran are also hoping to complete the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project soon to resolve Pakistan’s energy crisis. IP pipeline project - also called Peace Pipeline – is aimed at constructing pipeline from Iran’s South Pars fields in the Persian Gulf to Pakistan’s major cities of Karachi and Multan.

Iran was concerned when former army chief Raheel Sharif was appointed as head of the Saudi-led alliance. Riyadh had desired to appoint Raheel Sharif as head of the military alliance even prior to his retirement in November 2016. Pakistan has a number of times told Iran that its closeness to Saudi Arabia was not against Tehran.

Meanwhile yesterday, Iran’s Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost called for putting counter-terrorism cooperation at the top of Pak-Iran bilateral agenda.

Speaking on the ‘Pak-Iran relations: current scenario and future prospects’ at the Islamabad Policy Institute, he said Iran and Pakistan were victims of terrorism. “This concern should be at the top of the agenda of negotiations and consultations between the relevant authorities,” he added.

The envoy made this comment in the context of last month’s bomb attack on Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in the bordering ‘Sistan and Baluchestan Province’, the abduction of border guards in October 2018, and similar terrorism incidents in the past.

Honardoost said the “hand of a third party” was evident in these incidents. About the “third party”, he said it was the “one that was not easy with brotherly and friendly ties between Pakistan and Iran” and was also involved with patronizing “extremism and terrorism”.

The ambassador said he was confident that Pakistan and Iran would together foil the sinister designs of “the third party”.

Speaking about the recent conversation between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Hassan Rouhani, Honardoost said, the two leaders had reaffirmed their pledge to cooperate for border security.

He said Iran was having good communication with Pakistan on all issues. The two countries, he said, were exploring new areas of cooperation.

About Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in Gawadar, the ambassador said, Tehran was not concerned about “constructive engagement” of any country with Pakistan. “We expect solidarity, cooperation, and interaction between Pakistan and other Muslim countries to improve,” he added.

Honardoost, however, emphasized that it was Pakistan’s obligation as a responsible country that “the cooperation is not misused against any other country”.

The ambassador spoke about trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Iran. Emphasizing the importance of completion of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, he said it could “provide the foundation for revival of Pakistan’s economy” by strengthening Pakistan’s energy security and ending power shortages. “We are waiting for Pakistan to move on the project,” he said.

He reiterated that Pakistan’s Gawadar and Iran’s Chahbahar ports “were not rival ports”, and instead had a “sisterhood relationship”.

The ambassador said a passenger and goods ferry service between Karachi and Chahbahar was being negotiated. “The inauguration of ferry service and initiation of supply of electricity to Gwadar from Iran would be the best way to celebrate the sisterhood of two ports,” he said.