Daily Briefs

Photo : Protests in Karachi against the killing of Gen Soleimani (Dawn)

6 January 2020, Monday

Pakistan conveys its willingness to mediate in the Middle East

PR Daily Brief | D. Suba Chandran

6 January 2020, Monday

What happened?

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, foreign minister of Pakistan, was reported to have a telephonic conversation with the foreign ministers of four foreign ministers of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE, and conveyed Pakistan's willingness to mediate in the Middle East, following up the assassination of Iran's commander Qassem Soleimani. The latter was killed by the US in Baghdad.

Following the assassination of Soleimani, there have been protests within Pakistan against the US. 

What is the background?

A few days earlier, the Trump administration has agreed to restart the US-Pakistan military exercises. Hence, there is a sentiment that the present government will work with the US in achieving the latter's interests in the Middle East. Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) was to have stated earlier that Pakistan "would not allow its soil to be used against anyone." (Dawn, 6 January 2020)

Pakistan, despite its initiatives, continues to have issues with Iran, with whom it shares a long border on the west. Besides the sectarian differences, Pakistan and Iran have severe problems along the border – from smuggling to cross-border violence. Pakistan's border with Iran runs through Balochistan, an essential province for Islamabad not only for ethnic reasons but also for CPEC and Gwadar interests.

Pakistan was also facing pressure recently from Saudi Arabia. Islamabad had to refuse to take part in the recent summit hosted by Malaysia, where Mahathir and Erdogan played a significant role in trying to shape leadership for the Muslim World, outside Saudi Arabia and its allies. Neither Saudi Arabia nor it's Middle Eastern allies took part in the KL summit in Malaysia. Riyadh pressurized Pakistan from taking part in the summit; Islamabad withdrew its support to the KL summit at the last minute.

For Pakistan, it is imperative to walk a delicate balance between Iran and the US. 

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