Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif left for Saudi Arabia on Monday. The reason given for their departure to Saudi Arabia is to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The two leaders traveled on the same flight and they are also scheduled to visit Tehran in an attempt to mitigate tensions between the two countries which has the potential up in a wider sectarian conflict across the region.
They are travelling with a delegation including National Security Adviser (rtd) Naseer January and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi.
The Prime Minister is expected to meet with the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on January 19th and leave for the World Economic Forum held in Davos Switzerland, on the same day.
A press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs read:
“Pakistan is deeply concerned at the recent escalation of tension between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of 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 further said that Pakistan had consistently advocated the policy of promoting brotherhood among member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The already strained relationship between Tehran and Riyadh took a dive after a prominent Shiite cleric and a fierce critic of the Saudi Royal Family was put to death by state execution in Saudi Arabia. In response, the Saudi Embassy in Tehran was attacked and destroyed by protestors causing Saudi Arabia to cut diplomatic ties with Tehran.
Although the Pakistani leadership has made strong statements of solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan does have a sizable Shiite population, and the recent lifting of sanctions against Iran by the West, has Pakistan considering its interests at the prospect of its neighbor Iran re-entering the world trade. As a result, it is really in Pakistan’s interests to settle tensions diplomatically.
“With Iran re-joining the world trade, Pakistan can look forward to meeting its energy needs from across the border by completing the pending gas pipeline,” remarked an analyst.
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