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FM Qureshi visits Iran to defuse tensions

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Sunday visiting Iran in a bid to defuse rising tensions in the region after the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike.

Qureshi’s visit came after Prime Minister Imran Khan directed him to travel to theregion following the tension between the US and Iran.

Khan has said that Pakistan, which shares its border with Iran, will not be party to any regional conflict and rather play the role of a peacemaker. The military has also said it will not allow its soil to be used against anyone.

For decades Pakistan has tried to balance its strong relationship with Saudi Arabia and ties with Iran, with whom it shares a near 1,000-kilometre (625-mile) border. Sunday´s visit comes as tensions mount across the Middle East following the 62-year-old general´s death in Iraq, and Iran´s admission that it shot down an airliner by mistake, killing 176 people on board.

“Recent developments seriously endanger peace and security in an already volatile region and underscore the need for immediate and collective efforts for a peaceful resolution,” Pakistan´s foreign office said in a statement.

Qureshi met with President Hassan Rouhani and conveyed him “Pakistan´s readiness to support all efforts that facilitate resolution of differences and disputes through political and diplomatic means.

He also met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. Qureshi will visit Saudi Arabia on January 13 to hold talks with Saudi foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan.

The minister will also visit the US after concluding his visit to Tehran and Riyadh, a source in Pakistan´s foreign office confirmed.

Accompanied by Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood, the foreign minister was warmly received by Director General of Iranian Foreign Ministry Syed Rasool Musavi and senior officials of the Pakistani Embassy.

Qureshi commenced his visit from Mashad where he paid respects at the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS), descendant of Holy Prophet (PBUH) where he prayed for Muslim unity and regional stability.

While being in Mashad, the foreign minister also met Governor General of Razavi Khorasan Province Ali Reza Razm Hosseini who warmly welcomed him and his delegation.

The governor general told the foreign minister that they catered around three million pilgrims annually coming from across the world including Pakistan.

In his remarks, the foreign minister said that starting his trip from the holy place was a matter of honor for him.

The foreign minister also thanked the governor general for facilitation of the Pakistani pilgrims who visit the shrine in a huge number annually.

Last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan travelled between Saudi Arabia and Iran in a bid to calm relations between the rivals. Pakistan has good relations with Saudi Arabia, with more than 2.5 million of its nationals living and working in the kingdom, but it also maintains close ties with Iran and represents Tehran´s consular interests in the United States.

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