ISLAMABAD: PM Imran Khan is expected to travel to Riyadh as part of Pakistan’s continued effort to play its part of a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) visited Riyadh and believed to have laid the foundation for the prime ministers visit, The Express Tribune reported.
As per diplomatic sources the frequent visits of Pakistan’s civil and military leadership to Riyadh and Tehran over the past few weeks shows that there might be some ‘ice melting’ between the two states because of the diplomatic maneouvres inititated by Pakistan.
Since May, this would be premier’s fourth visit to Riyadh. Prime Minister Imran Khan also travelled to Tehran following his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in October. In September, he also met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York.
Apart from that, the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the ISI Director General Lt-General Faiz Hameed also visited Tehran. In November, General Bajwa’s visit to Iran was considered significant in diplomatic circles as he, according to some diplomatic sources, carried important message for the Iranian leadership on behalf of Saudi Arabia, The Express Tribune reported.
Since September, when Saudi oil facilities came under missile attack, Pakistan is making an all-out effort for the patch-up between Tehran and Riyadh.
During that period, there was a real threat of tensions translating into some serious conflict in the Persian Gulf region, as both US and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for the attack. Iran had denied the charges while Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed the responsibility, The Express Tribune reported.
Sensing the sensitivity of issue and seriousness of the conflict between the two key Muslim countries, Pakistan burnt the midnight oil to prevent any sort of escalation. During his address, at the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Imran Khan confirmed that he was mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
But Pakistan clarified later that it is was only facilitating the dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Pakistan’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia cannot be ruled out but at the same time it also considers its ties with Iran important too due to numerous factors.
One of the officials, at the foreign office, while speaking to Surkhiyan said, “We (Pakistan) are playing our part in the patch-up between the two Muslim states Saudi Arabia and Iran because we cannot afford the tension between them. So, it in Pakistan’s interest that there should be de-escalation in tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.”
Speaking at the weekly press briefing, Foreign office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal on Thursday said high-level exchanges between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the ‘hallmark of the brotherly relationship.’
“You have witnessed the high frequency of leadership level exchanges, especially since last August. The prime minister has undertaken at least 3 visits to KSA since May this year,” Dr. Faisal said.
However, the foreign office spokesperson, did not say when the prime minister would travel to Saudi Arabia. “Any further information about any future visit will be shared accordingly,” He added.
Sources, nevertheless, say the visit is expected on December 14 or 15, The Express Tribune reported.