Pakistan offers to host Saudi-Iran reconciliation talks

AP News
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Posted: Jan 19, 2016 2:37 PM

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's prime minister offered Tuesday to host talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia aimed at resolving disputes between the Middle Eastern rivals.

Nawaz Sharif met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, a day after meeting Saudi Arabia's King Salman in Riyadh. After his meeting with Rouhani, Sharif told reporters that Iran had expressed an interest in improving relations with Saudi Arabia and would appoint a focal person for future talks.

Sharif said he would speak to Saudi Arabia to encourage the appointment of a focal person, and described reconciling the two countries as Pakistan's "prime duty and sacred mission."

Iran's State TV said that Rouhani welcomed the prospect of improved regional ties with Saudi Arabia. He said that relations with the kingdom could improve if Saudi Arabia pledged to respect the rights of Shiite Muslims.

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.

On Tuesday, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported that Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi was on his way to the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah to attend a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the attacks on Saudi's embassy in Tehran.