ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani Foreign policy experts are optimistic with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative for mediation in the Persian Gulf to pave the way for peace in the region.
They expressed the views at a round table conference titled ‘Mediation in the Persian Gulf: Initiatives, Strategies and Obstacles hosted by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), an Islamabad-based think-tank, on the eve of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming mediation trip to Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The discussion was attended by a large number of retired diplomats, members of academia, representatives of think-tanks and members of civil society.
Former Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, in his keynote, said that despite huge obstacles including the massive mistrust between Saudi Arabia and Iran , and regional power play, Pakistan was the best suited country for such a role because of its strong credentials with both countries. He underscored that the geo-political environment was conducive for the effort, no matter how little space was available for making progress.
He said Pakistan regards both Iran and Saudi Arabia as close friends.
He proposed that PM Imran Khan should during the trip warn leaders of both countries about the consequences of war, not just for the two countries, but for the larger region and the world at large; seek a minimum common agenda on which the effort could be made forward; offer to host a summit or a senior leadership meeting of both countries in Pakistan; and renew good offices to both countries.
Chaudhry added that US President Donald Trump has not done a fair deal by pulling out of the JCPOA which was signed after years of diplomatic efforts. “JCPOA was a success of diplomacy,” he said.
Pakistan’s former ambassador to Iran Asif Durrani observed that good sense had prevailed with Saudi Arabia after realizing that the war in Yemen was not going their way even after four years. He emphasized the need of confidence building measures between Iran and Saudi Arabia for the peace effort to progress.
He added that Persian Gulf has been facing peculiar situation for past four decades. He said that Iran is a great country and civilization with 97 percent literacy rate and a leader in the public health.
He said that only problem to US with Iran is that the later challenges US hegemony. “Iran has been at loggerheads with the US ever since the Islamic Revolution,” said the former ambassador. He said that the US has been the factor of instability in the region.
He called on Iranian government to build trust with Riyadh and said that Iran should play its role in bringing peace and stability in Yemen.
Durrani said that one should be optimistic about Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s efforts to defuse tensions in the Persian Gulf region.
Syed Qandil Abbas, Professor of Politics and International Relations at Qauid-e-Azam University said there was need to change the narrative about Iran – Saudi conflict from a sectarian one to that of power contest in which both countries were trying to secure their interests. This, he believed, would help resolve the dispute.
He said that Iran trusts Pakistan and has confidence in Pakistan peace initiatives. He added that Pakistan has proved neutrality in Middle Eastern conflicts thus has a strong position to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
M.M Zamani, Research Councilor at the Embassy of Iran expressing his views said that the US is the real problem in the region which is not allowing the regional states to resolve their issues. “US should leave the region so that we can manage our problems,” he said.
He said that Iran is not isolated in the world rather it is the US which is isolated. He said that Iran has full confidence in Pakistan's peace initiative. “We will pray for Pakistan to do its best,” he said.
Arab Affairs Analyst Ali Mehr was skeptical about the mediation initiative and said that Imran Khan could at the best play the role of a messenger between the two countries. He warned about the US role and influence on Saudi Arabia saying it could prevent any breakthrough in the initiative.
Mehr suggested that the prime minister’s efforts should be exclusively focused on finding some solution of the Yemen war. He further proposed that Pakistan should join hands with Iraq and Oman for making a bigger effort for rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Executive Director IPI Professor Sajjad Bokhari said Pakistan, which has legitimate political, economic and security interests in the region, cannot remain completely removed from the effects of developments in the Middle East.
“Therefore, it is important that Pakistan’s interests be secured in the face of unpredictable circumstances by working for peace in the region,” he said. -IRNA