Qureshi meets Saudi counterpart on 2nd leg of ‘peace mission’

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Shamim Mehmood

Islamabad

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday arrived in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on second leg of his two-nation tour aimed at diffusing tensions in the region.

On his arrival at King Khalid International Airport, the foreign minister was received by Saudi deputy protocol minister Azam ul Yaqeen, Pakistan’s envoy to Saudi Arabia Raja Ali Ejaz and senior officials.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud as part of Pakistan’s efforts to help defuse tensions in the Middle East amid heightened hostility between Iran and the US, a statement issued by the Foreign Office said.

Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood, Pakistani envoy Raja Ali Ejaz, and other officials from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs were also present during the meeting.

The Foreign Minister underscored that the fraternal ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were deep-rooted and multi-faceted and the strategic relationship between the two countries was growing in myriad dimensions.

The Foreign Minister shared in detail Pakistan’s perspective on the recent developments in the Middle East/Gulf region.

The Foreign Minister highlighted the thrust of his diplomatic outreach as part of Prime Minister’s direction that Pakistan must support all efforts aimed at avoiding conflict and resolving differences and disputes through political and diplomatic means.

The Foreign Minister apprised his Saudi counterpart about his telephonic conversations with the Foreign Ministers of regional countries, and other diplomatic contacts, noting an overwhelming level of support for efforts for de-escalation.

Noting the serious implications for peace and security of recent events, the Foreign Minister underscored the need for all sides to exercise maximum restraint, avoid taking any further escalatory step, work for defusing tensions, and finding ways for constructive engagement.

As “partner for peace”, the Foreign Minister stated, Pakistan would support all efforts for peace and provide all possible facilitation for constructive engagement among parties.

The Foreign Minister also thanked for Saudi Arabia’s steadfast support for the Kashmir issue and exchanged views on deepening bilateral cooperation in economic and financial fields.

The Saudi Foreign Minister reaffirmed the strategic importance of Saudi-Pakistan relations and the resolve to deepen mutual cooperation in all fields.

In the regional context, the Saudi Foreign Minister welcomed the Foreign Minister’s visit and Pakistan’s support for efforts to defuse tensions, preserve peace and security, and help find a diplomatic way forward. The two sides agreed to remain engaged and consult closely on issues affecting peace and security in the region and beyond.

The foreign minister had embarked on a two-nation visit to Tehran and Riyadh on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan after recent developments that followed the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in a US airstrike.

Qureshi, who called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif separately, had a wide-ranging exchange of views on recent developments in the region. Pakistan-Iran relations were also discussed.

The minister conveyed to the Iranian leadership that “Pakistan appreciated Iran’s preference for de-escalation of tensions and expressed the hope that Iran would continue to act with its traditional wisdom in dealing with the issues at hand,” a statement issued by the Foreign Office said.

He stressed that war was in nobody’s interest and it was imperative to resolve issues through dialogue and diplomacy, it added.

Qureshi informed the Iranian leaders about his contacts with his counterparts in the region and said that there was “a general consensus in favour of immediate de-escalation and avoidance of war”.

“Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used against anyone; nor would Pakistan be a part of any war or conflict in the region,” the FO quoted the foreign minister as saying.

Qureshi underlined that despite the complexity of issues involved, Pakistan will continue to work for peace and urge constructive engagement among all sides.

According to the press release, the minister during his meetings also conveyed Islamabad’s appreciation for Iran’s “steadfast support for Kashmiris’ right of self-determination” and for early resolution of the Kashmir issue in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

President Rouhani and Zarif stressed that Iran also preferred de-escalation of tensions and preservation of peace and stability in the region. “All sides had responsibilities in this regard,” they were quoted as saying.

The Iranian leadership also appreciated Prime Minister Imran’s efforts aimed at reducing tensions in the region, saying they had supported the premier’s initiative in the past and welcomed the present efforts as well, according to the FO.

Qureshi reaffirmed the importance Pakistan attaches to its “close fraternal ties with Iran” and expressed the resolve to further strengthen the historic, multifaceted relationship.

Upon his departure for Riyadh, Qureshi was seen off at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport by Iranian foreign ministry’s assistant minister (West Asia) Mohammad Mousavi, chargé d’affaires at Pakistan’s embassy in Tehran Syed Fawad Sher and other officers.

He was received upon his arrival at Riyadh airport by the Saudi foreign ministry’s deputy minister of protocol, Azamul Qain, Pakistan’s ambassador to the kingdom Raza Ali Ejaz and other senior officials from the Pakistan embassy.

In Riyadh, Qureshi will meet his Saudi counterpart to discuss the regional security situation and exchange views on other wide-ranging issues.