MASHHAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday held a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, wherein he asserted that Pakistan would not become part of any regional conflict in the wake of the killing of an Iranian general by the US.
The meeting between the two dignitaries came during the foreign minister’s one-day visit to Iran as a part of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions in the Middle East. Both sides took stock of the geopolitical situation as tensions between the US and Iran hit an all-time high, with both sides resorting to attacks.
Earlier, on his arrival in Mashhad, Governor Ali Reza Razm Hosseini warmly welcomed the foreign minister. He later visited the shrine of Imam Raza (AS) and made special prayers for Pakistan’s security and the unity of the Muslim Ummah.
Speaking on the occasion, FM Qureshi said that it was an honour for him to begin his mission by visiting the holy site. He also thanked the Mashhad governor for making the best arrangements for three million Pakistani pilgrims who visit the holy site annually.
The minister also took to Twitter to share his sentiments on visiting the holy site.
“Honoured to pay my respects at the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (AS), a descendant of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as my first stop where I prayed for Muslim unity and regional stability,” he wrote.
FM Qureshi is on a diplomatic tour on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan to defuse tensions in the Middle East. He will meet his Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif in Tehran during his Iran visit to exchange views on the prevailing situation in the region.
He will also visit Saudi Arabia on Monday, where he will hold talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh and consult on issues of regional peace and stability. The foreign minister will then travel to Washington on Jan 15 where he will meet senior officials of US President’s Donald Trump administration to discuss the Middle East crisis.
It is worth mentioning here that that tensions in the region escalated after US forces killed Iran’s most revered military commander Major General Qassem Suleimani in a drone strike near Baghdad airport on January 3, while in revenge Tehran attacked two US military bases in Iraq with missiles five days later. Though the two countries have apparently stood down, tension is still running high in the region.
US officials frequently contacted Pakistani military brass during the crisis, but Islamabad made it abundantly clear that it would not become a party to any armed conflict in the region and instead advised all to exercise maximum restraint to avoid war.
During these visits, the foreign minister will share Pakistan’s perspective on the current situation, stress the imperative of avoiding any conflict, underscore the importance of defusion of tensions, and stress the need for finding a diplomatic way forward, according to Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Aisha Farooqui.
The foreign minister will convey Pakistan’s readiness to support all efforts that facilitate the resolution of differences and disputes through political and diplomatic means, she said during a weekly press briefing.
Following the Iranian missile strike on two US military bases in Iraq, US President Donald Trump, who had earlier warned Tehran of “disproportionate” action for any attack on Americans or US assets, decided not to retaliate. And in a subsequent letter to the UN secretary-general, he offered “unconditional talks” to Tehran – the offer was, however, spurned.
The possibility of another war in the region appears to have diminished. This has raised the question if there is still a need for Pakistan’s peace mission? “Yes,” said Farooqui on Thursday.
“There is always room for engagement and interaction within the region and beyond. The foreign minister’s visit will be aimed towards this,” she added.
On Saturday, FM Quresh, in a statement, said that Iran owning up to its mistake of downing Ukrainian passenger plane would likely ease up tensions in the region.
“Iran’s confession of downing Ukrainian passenger plane should ease up tensions as the region can neither endure tension nor can it tolerate war anymore,” he said.
FM Qureshi reiterated that Pakistan would play an active role to reduce growing tensions in the region.
Iranian armed forces on Saturday admitted that they unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian airliner that crashed this week and blamed “human error” for the mistake.
The plane, which crashed earlier killing all 176 people on board, was mistaken for a “hostile plane” and was hit while enemy threats were at the highest level, according to a press statement published by the official IRNA news agency.