May 23, 2019
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit Islamabad on Thursday for talks with Pakistani leaders, including about sharply rising tensions between Tehran and Washington, Pakistani state media reported.
Relations between Iran and Pakistan have been strained in recent months, with both sides accusing each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.
Pakistani state media reported that during his trip Zarif will attempt to garner the support of Pakistan against rising tensions in the Arabian Gulf and “brief the Pakistani leadership about Iran’s ongoing tensions with the United States.”
The United States pulled out of an agreement between Iran and world powers a year ago that limited Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.
This month tensions have risen sharply following US President Donald Trump’s decision to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and beef up US military presence in the Gulf in response to what he says are Iranian threats.
Pakistan has described the mounting tensions as “disturbing” and asked all sides to show restraint.
“Any miscalculation can lead to a large scale conflict in the region,” Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal said at a press briefing last week.
During Khan’s trip to Iran in April, the two sides announced they would form a joint quick reaction force to combat militant activity on their shared border.
A new umbrella group representing various insurgent groups operating in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province claimed responsibility for an attack in April when 14 passengers were killed after being kidnapped from buses in the province, which borders Iran.
Tehran has also stepped up security along its long border with Pakistan after a suicide bomber killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards in mid-February in southeastern Iran, with Iranian officials saying the attackers were based inside Pakistan. Pakistan denies the accusation.
Earlier this month, Pakistan said it had started fencing certain areas along the 950km shared Pakistan-Iran border.
Relations are also tense over a $7 billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Pakistan says it has recently informed Iran in writing that it cannot execute the project as long as Tehran is under a United States sanctions regime, driving the final nail in the coffin of a project that was conceived in the 1990s to connect Iran’s giant South Pars gas field to India via Pakistan.
Tehran formally issued a notice to Islamabad in February this year, saying it was moving an arbitration court against Pakistan for failing to lay down the pipeline in Pakistani territory in the timeframe stipulated in the bilateral agreement. Pakistan has until August this year to legally respond to Iran’s notice and settle the issue through negotiations.