Imran Khan likely to visit Saudi Arabia, Iran to defuse Middle East tensions

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is likely to visit Iran and Saudi Arabia later this month as part of Islamabad’s efforts to defuse the increasing tensions in the Middle East, according to a media report.

Last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Khan said that Donald Trump had asked him to mediate with Iran to defuse tensions in the Middle East, though the US president later suggested that it was the Pakistani premier who approached him and nothing was final.

Quoting Foreign Office sources, The Express Tribune reported that Khan is likely to visit Tehran and Riyadh later this month to mediate between Iran and Saudi.

However, the dates are yet to be finalised.

Tensions have been brewing between Tehran and Riyadh since the missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities last month. Both Saudi Arabia and the US have blamed Iran for the drone strikes, claimed by the Houthi rebels. However, Tehran has strongly rebutted the charges.

Pakistan and certain other countries have been trying to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan traditionally has strong relations with Saudi Arabia but also maintains friendly ties with Iran.

In 2016, the then Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif mediated between Saudi and Iran in a bid to defuse tensions between the two countries that soared after the hanging of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia.

The execution of the cleric, who was considered a terrorist by Riyadh but hailed in Iran as a champion of the rights of Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority, had led to violent protests in the Middle East region.