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War is not an option for Iran-USA: FO

17 May, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday blamed the United States for heightening tensions with Iran in the ongoing crisis in the Persian Gulf and called on both sides to show restraint. “We expect all sides to show restraint. … Pakistan desires that all issues should be settled through peaceful dialogue and engagement by all sides,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing. “War is not an option,” he emphasised.

The spokesman was responding to questions about the deepening US-Iran crisis that has led to a massive military buildup by the US in the region in response to an unspecified threat. Under its offensive posture in the Persian Gulf, the US has deployed an aircraft carrier, positioned B-52 bombers at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, and sent F-15 jets to the region.

The progression of the crisis has been likened by many to the developments ahead of the Iraq war, which was started on the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction.

“Recent developments in the Persian Gulf region are disturbing. The US decision to deploy an aircraft carrier and bombers has added to the tensions and the existing precarious security situation in the Middle East,” Dr Faisal said.

Pakistan’s position looked much similar to the Chinese stance on the crisis. The Chinese foreign ministry had earlier said: “The Hormuz Strait is an important passageway for maritime shipping. We hope all parties can resolve differences through dialogue and jointly uphold peace and stability in the Hormuz Strait. We call on all parties, especially non-regional major country, to make responsible and constructive efforts.”

The FO spokesman, meanwhile, warned that any “miscalculated move can transmute into a large-scale conflict”.

There have been apprehensions that attacks on the vessels belonging to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Norway near Fujairah, off the coast of UAE, and drone strikes on a couple of oil pumping stations of Saudi state-owned Aramco that forced the Kingdom to suspend oil supply to Red Sea port could push the already volatile situation closer to war.

The drone attack was claimed by Yemen’s Houthis, whereas the attacks on vessels are still being investigated. The US and its Arab allies are treating Iran as the prime suspect in the sabotage of the ships.

The US has said that Iran would be held accountable for attacks by proxy forces. The US and its Arab allies consider Houthis as Iranian proxies.

Pakistan had a day earlier condemned the attack on Aramco facilities and expressed support for Saudi Arabia and the international community.

The spokesman said that several options were being considered for raising the issue of acquittal of four Hindu extremists accused of the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing at relevant international forums.

“We have continued to raise the issue over the years, especially after the acquittal to which India has no reply. Presently, we are considering different options to take up this case with the relevant international forums,” he said.

Reacting to the acquittal of the bombing accused, Pakistan had in March said that “systemic decision to gradually exonerate and finally acquit the perpetrators” not only showed their callousness towards the heirs of the victims, who had been waiting for justice, but also reveals India’s state policy of promoting and protecting Hindu terrorists.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will visit Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) from May 21-22 to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) Council of Foreign Minis­ters (CFM). The foreign ministers’ forum shall prepare for the bloc’s summit from June 13 to 14.

Prime Minister Imran Khan would attend the summit or what is called the Council of Heads of State next month.

“The foreign minister’s participation in the SCO CFM will highlight Pakistan’s interest in regional peace, stability and development and will give us an opportunity to project our perspective on foreign policy issues,” the FO spokesman said.

The SCO, he said, allowed Pakistan to explore greater economic linkages and cooperation with the region in the areas of energy and transport and would help in promoting Pakistan as a regional trade corridor.

Mr Qureshi is expected to meet his counterparts from the participating countries on the sidelines of the meeting.

The Foreign Office supported the Chinese claim that none of the Pakistani women married to Chinese men was used for organ sale.

“It is confirmed that there are no reports regarding trafficking of women for organ harvesting,” the spokesman said, but did not say anything about the allegations that some of the women taken to China by their husbands were forced into prostitution.

In what could be seen as an acknowledgement that Chinese men had contracted fake marriages, the spokesman said: “Any Chinese or Pakistani nationals affected by these fake marriages can approach the ministries of interior and foreign affairs, Pakistan’s diplomatic missions in China and the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad.” Dr Faisal said the interior ministry and Chinese Embassy were working together for streamlining the procedures for cross-border marriages.

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