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October 17, 2019

Regional relations

Editorial

 
October 17, 2019

Pakistan has become a key player in settling growing tensions in the region after US President Donald Trump made a request to Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the recently concluded UN General Assembly to talk to Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two countries have traditionally had a tense relationship but this has grown worse a few months oil installations at Aramco were attacked by Houthi rebels, which Saudi Arabia says are backed by Iran. Iran has not openly acknowledged any support to the Houthis.

Indeed, since the war in Yemen began in 2915 relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been becoming increasingly strained. In the past, Pakistan’s efforts to act as mediator have not been particularly successful with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif failing to bring about improvement after meeting with the Saudi leadership in 2016. PM Imran Khan has met Saudi Crown Prince Prince Muhammad bin Salman in Riyadh to discuss the situation and suggest all countries work towards peace. Prince Muhammad’s response is not known. Previously, Imran Khan, keeping his promise to President Trump met Iranian President Rouhani in Tehran and also put forward proposals for peace. Iran had agreed it sought peace in the region.

One of the issues is the worsening relationship between the US and Iran after President Trump withdrew from an agreement on Iran’s nuclear weapons. There has also been a deployment of US troops in the waters close to Iran. While Islamabad’s ties with Riyadh and Tehran are both good, it may not be so easy to bring an end to hostilities between them given the animosity that exists and which is based on many factors including sectarian politics. For its own sake Pakistan will however be very eager to reduce temperatures in the region since any conflict in the Gulf would also affect it very badly. Pakistan shares a long border with Iran while Saudi Arabia is one of closest allies. For these reasons it is certain that the prime minister and his advisers on foreign relations would wish to achieve some kind of settlement. This would also earn them points with Washington given that President Trump had assigned them with a difficult task of acting as mediator. We hope for everyone’s sake that peace does prevail in the end.

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