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Across the table in Tehran and Riyadh

Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia are all well aware of the old adage that “it’s easier to start a war than to end it”. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative to stave off tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, not only for the interests of either side but also for the good of Pakistan and Afghanistan, is praiseworthy. These countries have experienced the wrath of war in recent decades. Pakistan has been the theater of war on terror for two decades, while Iran bore the brunt of a bloody conflict with Iraq in the 80s. Saudi Arabia embroiled itself in the Yemen strife five years ago, and since then there has been no end to it. Pakistan being a friend to both countries may play well the role of a facilitator or mediator, if both Tehran and Riyadh are receptive to the idea. Prime Minister Khan met Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani during a one-day visit to Tehran on Sunday and said it was his own initiative to bring both countries close to each “to iron out their differences”. Before taking a flight for Riyadh in the coming days, Khan will have to prepare his mind to face stiff or willing faces there because of the complex nature of ties between the two countries. Riyadh should be receptive to Pakistan’s initiative as improved ties with Tehran will impact Syria, and its ties with Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia ought to be credited with showing restraint in the wake of an armed attack on its oil installation back in September this year. Despite being instigated by beleaguered US President Donald Trump, the maverick crown price, Muhammed bin Salman, ruled out war. In fact, he also did not dismiss Khan’s initiative to give diplomacy a chance. Recent developments are, however, worrisome. The US has announced stationing thousands of its troops in Saudi Arabia, which implies escalation of the conflict in the region in the coming days. US troops are being deployed at a high cost. The kingdom, which has introduced several economic reforms, should revisit its decision of deploying foreign ‘mercenaries’ on its soil. Also, an Iranian oil tanker came under a missile attack off coast Jeddah. Both sides have shown responsible behaviour instead of flying barbs and accusations. Iran says it will respond after ascertaining the facts.
PM Khan’s visit to Iran will strengthen ties between the two neighbours. While Pakistan is mending ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, it should also take stock of its own relations with Afghanistan, which recently went sour because of a dispute over a market in Peshawar.



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PM resolves to facilitate trade with Afghanistan

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