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EditorialPakistani mediation and Saudi-Iran ties

Pakistani mediation and Saudi-Iran ties

It would not be wrong to say that the recent Saudi Arabia-Iran thaw has sent a wave of jubilation throughout most of the Middle East and not to forget Pakistan.

So far, the fresh start has been on a positive footing, which can be gauged from the statement of Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, who said his country might be investing in Iran very soon.

The regional heavyweights did not have diplomatic ties for the last over six years when Shia cleric Nimr Al Nimr was executed by Riyadh.

Besides, both countries are in opposing camps in conflicts in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Pakistan too was treading a delicate path as far as its relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia are concerned.

Islamabad must have heaved a sigh of relief. So much so the Foreign Office has even claimed that Pakistan had a role in facilitating dialogue between the two Middle Eastern countries.

In a recent press briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, while welcoming the latest development, said: “Pakistan like several other countries and friends of both Iran and Saudi Arabia played their part in facilitating the dialogue.”

The spokesperson pointed out that the first meeting of the foreign ministers of both countries had taken place in Islamabad on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

However, at the same time, the Foreign Office praised China’s leadership in coordinating the agreement and said Pakistan did not “wish to take away credit from China in this latest agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia on normalisation of relations”.

The Foreign Office went on to say that Pakistan-China ties have continued to grow in strength over the last several decades.

“We have been friends through good times and tough times, despite changing situations around us, international developments, and any domestic developments in Pakistan or China. Both sides are committed to this relationship,” the spokesperson said.

Islamabad had been in a tricky situation. On one hand is Riyadh on which it depends economically while on the other, there is Tehran with which Pakistan shares a long border. And, then there is China, a time-tested ally.

Balancing ties with both rival countries required diplomacy at another level, and Pakistan should be applauded for this.

In the past, Pakistan had made efforts to mediate between both countries. In 2016, the then-prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, even called mediation between the two countries a “sacred mission”.

Even former prime minister Imran Khan showed his interest in playing the role of a mediator between the two nations and visited Saudi Arabia and Iran back in 2019.

Islamabad knows that this development would have far-reaching effects in the region, presently embroiled in decades-long conflicts.

And, the spokesperson was vocal enough to point it out.

“We believe that this diplomatic breakthrough will contribute to peace and stability in the region and beyond,” Ms Baloch said.

If Saudi Arabia and Iran stick to the agreement, its effects would be felt as far as Lebanon. But, it is Yemen that might see a positive development where Riyadh and Iran-backed Houthis have been waging a war for years. How would the rapprochement turn out for Yemen, we have to wait and see.


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