Pakistan’s role in Middle East deescalation hailed, says Qureshi

In this file photo, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi leaves after addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council on Sept. 10, 2019 in Geneva. (AFP)
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Updated 25 January 2020

Pakistan’s role in Middle East deescalation hailed, says Qureshi

  • Says the country’s diplomatic efforts have produced positive results in the region
  • Informs that US President Donald Trump is planning an exclusive visit to Pakistan this year

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Thursday that Pakistan’s mediation gesture during the Middle East crisis in the beginning of the year was applauded by Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have appreciated Pakistan’s positive intentions behind the mediation effort,” Qureshi said, adding that the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, told him during a meeting in Riyadh that Pakistan was “on the right track and all the regional countries should immediately join hands to deescalate the situation in the Middle East.”
On the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Qureshi visited Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States earlier this month to urge all stakeholders to practice “maximum restraint” in the wake of the killing of a top Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a US drone strike in Baghdad.
“With the help of other countries, Pakistan succeeded in its efforts to deescalate the Middle East situation. The country assured everyone it was willing to be partner in peace but could not become part of any other conflict,” Qureshi said.
“I also contacted foreign ministers of other regional states. Everyone understood the importance of convincing the countries concerned to exercise maximum restraint,” he continued.
“I met with the Iranian foreign minister and president. My meeting with President Hassan Rouhani lasted for an hour wherein we discussed how to defuse the situation and minimize tensions in the region,” the foreign minister said, adding: “I shared all the findings of my discussions in Tehran with my counterpart in Riyadh, saying it was Pakistan’s utmost desire to reduce tensions in the region.”
The minister continued that Pakistan wanted to minimize misunderstandings among Muslim states.
“Saudi Arabia is our very close friend while Iran is our neighbor. We don’t want tensions to mount among Muslim countries since that can be harmful for the whole Muslim Ummah.”
Asked about the expected visit of United States President Donald Trump to Pakistan, he said the American leader would visit Pakistan this year.
“President Trump has expressed his desire to pay an exclusive and independent visit to Pakistan which would not be linked to his visit to India. Pakistan is an independent and important country in the eyes of President Trump, therefore he desires to pay an exclusive visit to Pakistan,” Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said it now depended on President Trump’s “schedule where the visit will fit in.”
“It may come before or after the next US presidential election, but it will take place this year,” he said.


Pakistan 'facilitated' Afghan peace deal, says army spokesman

Updated 27 February 2020

Pakistan 'facilitated' Afghan peace deal, says army spokesman

  • Babar Iftikhar rejects rumors that US-Taliban peace deal may be delayed
  • Underlines the army’s success in eliminating militancy

ISLAMABAD: Two days before the signing of a US-Taliban deal, Pakistan said on Thursday it had done its best to facilitate the Afghan peace process.
“There will be positive results from this deal. Nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan. We are hoping for the best,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar told reporters at the Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi.
The US and Afghan Taliban are due to sign the peace agreement in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday. 
The army spokesman added that Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan is “cordial” as there are no reasons for it to turn sour.
As Thursday’s conference was Iftikhar’s first since he took office in January, he underlined the army’s success in eliminating militancy and restoring normality in Pakistan. As evidence of the success, he cited increasing tourism activity and the return of international cricket to the country. 
The ongoing Pakistan Super League is held on home soil for the first time, as security concerns had caused most games in previous years to be played abroad.
The army spokesman also said Pakistan does not seek open conflict with India, but is fully prepared to respond to any misadventure.
“There is no space for war between two nuclear powers, as this will have uncontrollable and unintended consequences. Things will spiral out of control,” he said, adding that the military is “prepared for all scenarios” and will “effectively respond” if there is any challenge to Pakistan’s security and integrity.
The statement comes exactly a year after two Indian fighter jets were downed for violating Pakistan’s airspace in an operation dubbed “Swift Retort” on Feb. 27, 2019.