Pakistan’s foreign minister said Monday the country would not be dragged into any conflict between the US and Iran as he urged both sides to lower tensions following the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last week.
Pakistan shares a 997-kilometer border with Iran, and for decades has tried to balance ties with Tehran with a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia - while also representing Iran’s consular interests in the US.
Tensions continued to mount across the Middle East Monday after a US drone strike killed the 62-year-old general in Iraq, prompting Iran to vow “severe revenge” on its long-time foe.
“We will not become part of any efforts to light a fire, nor will we allow our soil to be used against any other state as part of our policy to prevent instability in the region,” foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told parliament.
“It will be disastrous if conflict breaks out. It will also engulf us,” he added, while offering to help mediate as Pakistan has done in the past.
Last year, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan travelled between Saudi Arabia and Iran in a bid to defuse tension between the rivals.
Soleimani was one of Iran’s most popular public figures and was considered an instrumental figure in helping build and lead Shia militias across the Middle East to expand Iranian influence.
The security forces of Sunni-majority Pakistan have kept a watchful eye on the Shia fighters who are believed to have travelled to the Middle East to receive training from Iranian militias, fearing the militants could ignite sectarian bloodshed on their return.
Iran has also claimed militants have used Pakistan to launch attacks, with Tehran last year accusing a Pakistani suicide bomber of killing 27 members of its elite Revolutionary Guard, which Soleimani headed.