ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has reached Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh as part of Islamabad’s efforts to defuse tensions between Tehran and Riyadh which peaked after an attack on a Saudi oil facility. He is set to hold very important talks with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Sulman, who is also his personal friend.
Following the Premier’s visit to Iran on Sunday, the prime minister set off for the kingdom – his third trip to the country this year – to discuss regional developments and other matters with the Saudi leadership.
PM Imran is accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, special assistant Zulfikar Bukhari, and ISI DG Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed.
A Foreign Office (FO) statement noted Pakistan’s strong ties with Saudi Arabia “marked by mutual trust, understanding, close cooperation and an abiding tradition of supporting each other”.
PM Imran reiterated on his visit to Iran that Pakistan was ready to act as a facilitator between Iran and Saudi Arabia, to sort out their differences through dialogue. The Prime Minister said, “The issue is a complex one but it is possible to sort out
differences through dialogue.”
He also explained his trip to Iran would be followed with a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday which was sole “Pakistan’s initiative” as they were not asked by anyone to undertake such a trip.
He made it clear that Pakistan’s role would be of a facilitator and not a mediator, stressing that it was imperative for everyone not to allow any conflict to take place in the region as he viewed certain vested interests which wanted to flare up tensions in the region.
Tensions have been high between Iran and Saudi Arabia since an attack on the Kingdom’s two oil facilities on September 14 that caused fires and damage.
Saudi Arabia temporarily halted production at two Aramco oil facilities after they were attacked by Yemeni rebels, interrupting about half of the company’s total output – shutting down 5.7 million barrels per day of production – more than 5% of global oil supply.
The rebels said they launched “a large-scale operation involving 10 drones” on the facilities.
The United States blamed Iran for the strikes.
“Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Saudi Arabia, a key ally of Washington, has repeatedly accused Iran of supplying arms to the rebels. Tehran denies the charge.
On October 11, two missiles struck an Iran-owned oil tanker setting it ablaze off the Saudi port of Jeddah.
“Two missiles hit the Iran-owned ship near the Jeddah port city of Saudi Arabia,” the state TV said, quoting the National Iranian Oil
The state TV later said Iran’s foreign ministry had confirmed that the Iranian-owned oil tanker had been attacked in the Red Sea and was damaged.
The tanker had suffered heavy damage and was leaking oil into the Red Sea some 60 miles from Jeddah.
Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attacks.