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FM to visit Tehran, Riyadh, Washington in bid to defuse regional tension

FM to visit Tehran, Riyadh, Washington in bid to defuse regional tension

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is scheduled to open his regional trip on Sunday (tomorrow) with a visit to Iran for offering Pakistan’s help for defusing tensions prevailing in the Persian Gulf in the aftermath of the assassination of senior Iranian commander Gen Qassem Soleimani by the United States in an airstrike in Baghdad.

He would later on Jan 13 visit Riyadh and then travel to Washington on Jan 17, a senior diplomatic source said.

Mr Qureshi would tour the three capitals for meeting his counterparts to convey Pakistan’s desire to help in de-escalating the situation.

Mr Qureshi has made a number of telephonic contacts with his counterparts over the situation. More recently, he spoke to Russian and Iraqi foreign ministers.

The foreign minister, meanwhile, met the new Iranian ambassador in Islamabad Seyyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini on Friday at his chambers in the Parliament House.

Mr Qureshi told Amb Hosseini that Pakistan was determined to play its “positive role” for ending tensions in the region.

The Iranian ambassador said that Tehran was clear that it did not want escalation.

He, however, said that the countries counselling restraint need to, at least, first verbally condemn the incident.

Only afterwards can they ask the countries in the region and outside to de-escalate. He said those countries needed to stop treating the aggressor and the sufferer, the murderer and the slain, and terrorists and their victims equally, a diplomatic source revealed.

The foreign minister, on this occasion, recalled that the statement issued by the Foreign Office on Jan 3 had called for avoiding unilateral actions and use of force.

Mr Hosseini expressed similar sentiments in his speech at a condolence meeting for Gen Soleimani later in the evening. He did not name any specific country on both occasions, but it is well known that Iranians have not been very comfortable with the position taken by Islamabad on the incident.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2020

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