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Saudi-Iran tensions: PM leaves for Riyadh today

Top Story

October 15, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan is leaving for Riyadh today (Tuesday) on the second leg of his mission to deescalate simmering tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Imran visited Tehran on Sunday where he held separate meetings with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Dr. Hassan Rouhani.

Pakistan is playing the role of a facilitator to bring about thaw in the strained relations between the two Muslim states. Well-placed diplomatic sources told The News on Monday that the prime minister will meet with King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

Some important high-ups will also accompany the prime minister, including Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. In the first major step, the two sides could cease from issuing antagonistic statements about each other, paving way for initiation of a quiet diplomacy between two the countries. Currently, conflict in Yemen is the major cause of irritation between the two countries.

The sources pointed out that Prime Minister Imran may also visit some other Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for his peace mission before he undertook another visit to Iran.

Khan will also meet with the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Commander-in-Chief General Raheel Sharif. The peace mission has been initiated by Pakistan on its own but US President Donald Trump also hinted at Pakistan’s role when he met with Prime Minister Imran in New York last month.

The sources reminded that Pakistan was trying to stop further escalation in tension. According to the initial plan, PM Khan will return home late Tuesday evening but the stay could be extended for an overnight.

Prime Minister Imran will have one-on-one meeting with the Crown Prince who will also be present in the meeting between the prime minister and the Saudi king, the sources added.

Meanwhile, diplomatic observers are cautiously optimistic about a breakthrough in ties between the two Muslim countries, as the United States has provided most sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom has granted permission for deployment of US forces in Saudi Arabia.

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