Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has embarked on a peace mission that if successful may help reduce growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Arriving in the Iranian capital Tehran today (October 13), Imran met the Rahbar Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei as well as President Hassan Rouhani.
Following their meeting, the two leaders appeared at a joint press conference at which President Rouhani said Iran welcomed any initiative to reduce tensions in the region.
“Pakistan does not want conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia... I am happy to facilitate talks between Tehran and Riyadh... I am very hopeful as I had constructive talks with the [Iranian] president,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said at the joint news conference.
“Any effort based on goodwill is welcomed... during the meeting, we agreed that the regional issues can be resolved through diplomacy and through dialogue between countries,” President Rouhani responded.
Following his Tehran visit, Imran Khan said he would travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday (October 15) to hold talks with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
Accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi as well as advisor for overseas Pakistanis, Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, Imran Khan had arrived at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport earlier Sunday October 13. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif received the Pakistani guest and his delegation at the airport.
A Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement said the visit would focus on “peace and security in the region.”
On his way to New York last month to attend the UN General Assembly meeting, Imran Khan had stopped over in Saudi Arabia where the crown prince reportedly asked him to help reduce tensions with Iran.
Bin Salman reiterated this during an interview with CBS “60 Minutes” program aired on September 29 saying war between Iran and Saudi Arabia would be catastrophic not only for the region but the entire world.
MbS made the remarks while answering a question about the Houthis’ drone strike on Aramco oil facilities on September 14.
The strikes knocked out 50% of Saudi oil exports. For the first time in decades, Saudi Arabia was forced to import refined fuel to run its facilities.
Displaying his customary modesty, Imran Khan said he would act as “facilitator” rather than “mediator”.
A day earlier, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi had said that Tehran was prepared to hold talks with Saudi Arabia, with or without mediation, according to Press TV.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had expressed similar sentiments on October 11 saying the region could not afford a war.
“Saudi Arabia is our strategic partner, whereas Iran is a friend and neighbor,” he said. “We are seeking that misunderstandings between the two Muslim countries will be cleared through talks,” according to Voice of America.