PM, COAS to visit Iran, S. Arabia for mediation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to launch a mediation effort to end the standoff between Iran and Saudi Arabia amid growing international fears that a prolonged confrontation could have serious consequences for the region.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif would travel to Riyadh and Tehran together on Monday in an attempt to persuade them to de-escalate and resolve their disputes diplomatically.

Islamabad’s surprising move caught Pakistani and Iranian diplomats unawares. Foreign Ministry officials, who had this week briefed the National Assem­bly’s Stan­ding Committee on Foreign Affairs, had said the time was not right for mediating between the two countriess. The government had also this week cancelled a scheduled visit of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif to Iran for discussing defence ties.

It was not clear whether any fresh development had prompted the government to start mediation.

A senior source confided in Dawn that the mediation effort was Gen Raheel Sharif’s initiative. The source said the general had cautioned Saudi ministers, who met him last week, that tensions were harmful for the entire region.

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