Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan‘s Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia to help facilitate talks between the regional rivals have ended with no set commitments for dialogue although Tehran reiterated its readiness to come to the negotiating table.
Khan met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, late on Tuesday.
This followed a trip over the weekend to the Iranian capital Tehran to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei.
At a joint press conference on Sunday, Rouhani reiterated an Iranian desire to resolve issues in the region through dialogue, despite a flare-up of violence targeting oil facilities in both Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both governments blame each other for the attacks.
“Our two countries emphasised that regional issues could only be resolved through political means and dialogue,” said Rouhani. “We openly welcome any goodwill gesture by Pakistan for providing more peace and stability for the whole region and we are ready to assist Pakistan for providing full peace and stability for the whole region.”READ MORE
Following Rouhani’s comments, Khan reiterated his government’s desire to resolve any possible conflict between Iran – with whom Pakistan shares a 900km (560-mile) border – and Saudi Arabia, a key strategic ally to Islamabad.
“Iran is our neighbour. Ties with Iran go a long way back,” said the Pakistan PM.
“Saudi Arabia has been one of our closest friends. Saudi Arabia has helped us when we have been in need. The reason for this trip is that we do not want a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. We recognise that it is a complex issue.”
Saudi Arabia is a major Pakistani strategic ally, helping to bolster the country’s foreign exchange reserves earlier this year with interest free loans, and announcing more than $20bn in new investments in the South Asian country during a high-level visit.
Pakistan is also home to a Shia Muslim minority of roughly 20 percent of its 215 million population. Shia Muslims form the vast majority of the population in Iran.
Khan offered the use of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as a neutral venue for Saudi and Iranian leaders to meet to “iron out [their] differences”.