RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A top-level delegation from Pakistan visiting Saudi Arabia on Monday called for the opening of a communication line between the kingdom and its rival Iran, Pakistani officials said.
The visit comes as Pakistan is trying to mediate in the ongoing dispute between Riyadh and Tehran.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, accompanied by army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, held talks with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh where they discussed "bilateral cooperation and the latest regional developments," according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
The Pakistani prime minister, general and the foreign affairs minister attended a luncheon hosted by the Saudi king, which was also attended by the Saudi deputy crown prince who is also defense minister, as well as the ministers of finance and foreign affairs.
The Pakistani officials are heading next to Tehran on Tuesday to meet Iran's President Hassan Rouhani.
Sharif, the army chief, stressed the need for opening up communication channels between the two countries, according to a government and a security official who attended the meeting. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the meeting with the media.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry says that Islamabad is deeply concerned at the recent escalation of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Sunni and Shiite powerhouses have been rivals for years but the current tensions worsened after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric who was an outspoken opposition figure on Jan. 2. Angry crowds in Iran stormed the Saudi embassy, and Riyadh severed diplomatic relations with Tehran in protest.
Shahzad reported from Islamabad.