Iran's top diplomat seeks to deescalate tensions on visit to Pakistan after tit-for-tat airstrikes

AP , Monday 29 Jan 2024

Iran’s foreign minister was in Pakistan on Monday for talks on deescalating tensions after deadly airstrikes by Tehran and Islamabad earlier this month killed at least 11 people, marking a significant escalation in fraught relations between the neighbors.

Pakistan s Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani (R) speaks with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-
Pakistan s Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani (R) speaks with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad. AFP


Hossein Amirabdollahian landed at an airport near Islamabad before dawn and held discussions described as “in-depth talks” with his Pakistani counterpart, Jalil Abbas Jilani, at the foreign ministry in Islamabad. The Iranian foreign minister was also to meet with Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-Haq-Kakar.

Relations between the two countries were dramatically imperiled on Jan. 17, when Iran launched airstrikes in Pakistan’s restive southwestern Baluchistan province, targeting what Tehran said were hideouts of the anti-Iran militant group Jaish al-Adl, or the Army of Justice. Pakistan said two children were killed and tree others were wounded.

Angered over the strikes, Pakistan recalled its ambassadors from Tehran and launched airstrikes against alleged militant hideouts inside Iran, in the Sistan and Baluchestan province, killing at least nine people. Islamabad said it was targeting Baluch militant groups with separatist goals.

Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with suspicion over militant attacks on their sides of the border. Experts say the tit-for-tat strikes this month were at least partially prompted by internal political pressures though they also raised the threat of violence spreading across the Middle East, already unsettled by Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

During his visit, Amirabdollahian is also expecting to brief his hosts about an incident on Saturday in which unknown gunmen shot and killed at least four Pakistani laborers and wounded three others in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province. Pakistan has condemned the killings, describing the attack as “horrifying and despicable”.

Relatives of the slain Pakistanis rallied on Sunday, demanding that the bodies of their loved ones be brought home. Pakistan said arrangements were being made for that with Iran's help and that the three wounded workers were being treated at an Iranian hospital.

The two foreign ministers are to hold a joint news conference later on Monday.

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