Will Imran Khan’s Saudi-Iran tour ease stress within the area?

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan‘s Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia to assist facilitate talks between the regional rivals have ended with no set commitments for dialogue though Tehran reiterated its readiness to return to the negotiating desk.

Khan met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) within the Saudi capital, Riyadh, late on Tuesday.

This adopted a visit over the weekend to the Iranian capital Tehran to satisfy Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Chief Ali Hosseini Khamenei.

At a joint press convention on Sunday, Rouhani reiterated an Iranian need to resolve points within the area by means of dialogue, regardless of a flare-up of violence concentrating on oil services in each Iran and Saudi Arabia. Each governments blame one another for the assaults.

“Our two nations emphasised that regional points might solely be resolved by means of political means and dialogue,” mentioned Rouhani. “We brazenly welcome any goodwill gesture by Pakistan for offering extra peace and stability for the entire area and we’re prepared to help Pakistan for offering full peace and stability for the entire area.”

Following Rouhani’s feedback, Khan reiterated his authorities’s need to resolve any doable battle between Iran – with whom Pakistan shares a 900km (560-mile) border – and Saudi Arabia, a key strategic ally to Islamabad.

“Iran is our neighbour. Ties with Iran go a great distance again,” mentioned the Pakistan PM.

“Saudi Arabia has been one in every of our closest pals. Saudi Arabia has helped us when we have now been in want. The explanation for this journey is that we are not looking for a battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. We recognise that it’s a advanced problem.”

Saudi Arabia is a serious Pakistani strategic ally, serving to to bolster the nation’s international change reserves earlier this 12 months with curiosity free loans, and saying greater than $20bn in new investments within the South Asian nation throughout a high-level go to.

Pakistan can also be dwelling to a Shia Muslim minority of roughly 20 p.c of its 215 million inhabitants. Shia Muslims type the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants in Iran.

Khan supplied using the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as a impartial venue for Saudi and Iranian leaders to satisfy to “iron out [their] variations”.

Rouhani - Khan meeting in Tehran

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (proper) with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in Tehran [Iranian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Arabian statements on Khan’s go to have been extra transient, making no point out of Iran.

“Throughout the assembly, [Khan and MBS] reviewed robust ties between the 2 brotherly nations and fields of joint cooperation in addition to methods of enhancing them,” learn the authorities assertion.

“Additionally they mentioned the newest developments within the area and numerous problems with frequent curiosity.”

A Pakistani assertion on the assembly with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz mentioned PM Khan “burdened the necessity to resolve regional peace and stability variations and disputes by means of political means and diplomacy”.

‘All-out struggle’

On Tuesday, Iranian International Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused “a number of governments” of being concerned in final week’s assault on an Iranian oil tanker.

Final month, drone assaults hit two Saudi oil services at Abqaiq and Khurais, knocking out almost six p.c of worldwide oil provide.

Whereas accountability for the assaults was claimed by Houthi rebels who’re battling Saudi forces in Yemen, the dominion blamed Iran for the assaults, prompting the US to tighten sanctions on the nation. 

Tensions within the area have been at fever-pitch because the assaults, with the US backing Saudi Arabia’s accusations of Iran being accountable, and Iran warning of “all-out struggle” if its territory was attacked.

Following the United Nations Common Meeting in New York final month, Khan supplied to assist mediate between the 2 regional powers, who’ve additionally been battling one another by means of proxies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Deep divisions

Analysts warn that Pakistan’s historically pleasant ties with each nations is probably not sufficient to convey them to the desk.

Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based safety analyst, mentioned to count on Khan’s conferences to result in talks “is an excessive amount of”.

“It will be important [for Pakistan to do] however I doubt very a lot that something substantive will come out from Pakistan’s effort to facilitate talks between them,” he informed Al Jazeera.

Watch: Can Imran Khan be mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia?

“Conflicts between the 2 nations go a lot deeper. [The conflicts] will not be on some minor points, [that] have simply arisen. It has been there for a really, very very long time, and each nations are deeply concerned in conflicts within the Center East. So for Pakistan getting them collectively might not work.”

Hussain feels the duty could also be past the expectations set by Khan.

“Khan has developed this sort of phantasm about himself that he can now play a a lot larger position in uniting the Muslim ummah [community], however he does not realise that the Muslim ummah is so divided and fractured, with nothing to unite them.”

Others, nevertheless, consider Pakistan stands to achieve from moving into the mediation talks by reinforcing its neutrality on disputes between the 2 nations.

“The position of mediation reinforces Pakistan’s neutrality, which is constructive for Pakistan,” mentioned Hassan Akbar, an Islamabad-based international coverage analyst. “It permits Pakistan to sidestep the inevitable query of selecting sides.”

The position of mediation reinforces Pakistan’s neutrality, which is constructive for Pakistan

Hassan Akbar, Islamabad-based international coverage analyst

Akbar believes it’s unlikely that Pakistan would have the ability to allay Saudi Arabian strategic issues about Iran – notably relating to its nuclear capabilities – however that coming into right into a mediating position supplies a path by means of which quick tensions may be defused.

James Dorsey, a senior fellow on the Singapore-based S Rajaratnam College of Worldwide Research and a journalist who has coated the area for many years, mentioned Iran’s place was to attempt to push the area to the brink of a battle that neither facet needs so as to safe talks.

“The one option to break the circle … is to lift the stakes to the purpose the place you both go to struggle otherwise you speak,” Dorsey mentioned. “That’s the Iranian technique and that is additionally the chance issue.”

Dorsey argued that regardless that Pakistan has “zilch” leverage over Iran or Saudi Arabia, it is smart for it to pursue peace talks as a option to bolster its personal place of neutrality and relations with either side individually.

“Essentially, I believe at this level there may be extra on this for Pakistan than for the Saudi-Iranian dispute,” he mentioned.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

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