Pak PM, army chief on visit to Iran, S Arabia to ease tensions
Islamabad : Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with powerful army chief General Raheel Sharif today left for Riyadh on the first leg of a regional trip to defuse tensions between Saudi Arabia and arch rival Iran.
Sharif’s visit comes at a time when relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been fraught since Riyadh executed a prominent Shia cleric earlier this month following which Iranian protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate prompting the Saudis to sever ties.
Iran then snapped all commercial ties with Saudi Arabia and stopped pilgrims from travelling to Mecca.
The Foreign Office (FO) said in a statement that Sharif is leading a high-level delegation during the trip to exchange views on regional and international issues.
Officials said that he is accompanied by army chief General Raheel Sharif, advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, national security adviser Nasir Janjua, and special assistant on foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi among others.
After meeting Saudi King Salman today, Premier Sharif will travel to Tehran tomorrow and meet President Hassan Rouhani.
“Pakistan enjoys cordial and brotherly relations with both countries, which are characterised by strong bonds of affinity, mutual respect and solidarity, and draw strength from shared historical, cultural and Islamic values,” FO said.
The Foreign Office said Pakistan is deeply concerned at the escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“The Prime Minister has called for resolution of differences through peaceful means, in the larger interest of Muslim unity, particularly during these challenging times,” it said.
Pakistan has close ties with Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia but last year resisted calls by the Saudis to join a war in Yemen against the Houthi rebels allegedly supported by Shia-dominated Iran.
Pakistan is also not willing to contribute troops for the 34-nation Saudi military alliance to fight terrorism.
Radio Pakistan reported that leading politicians and analysts have welcomed the prime minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Iran, terming it as a timely move to ease tensions between the two Muslim countries.