Saudi Crown prince embarks on Asia tour amid regional tensions
LONDON - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz started an Asia tour with a visit to Pakistan at a time Islamabad faces mounting tensions with India and Iran.
Saudi Arabia promised to help ease the situation between Pakistan and India.
“Our objective is to try to de-escalate tensions between the two countries… and to see if there is a path forward to resolving those differences peacefully,” Saudi Minister of State for Foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir said during a news conference February 18 in Islamabad.
Jubeir spoke as Pakistan recalled its envoy from India for "consultations."
India vowed to retaliate after a suicide attack killed 41 Indian paramilitary members February 14 in Kashmir. India blamed Pakistan for the attack and has long accused it of supporting rebels in Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies. The Islamist militant group Jaish el-Mohammad, which is based in Pakistan, said it was responsible for the attack.
The attack sparked widespread calls in India for action against Pakistan.
Jubeir addressed Iranian accusations of Pakistan and other countries' involvement in the February 13 suicide attack that killed at least 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in south-eastern Iran. Jaish al-Adl, a jihadist group that operates along the Iranian-Pakistani border, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Tehran has demanded that Pakistan “make a serious and decisive action” against Jaish al-Adl and asked Islamabad to arrest the attackers. Iran also blamed the attack on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Israel.
The allegations by Iran, Jubeir said, sought to divert the attention of the Iranian people from the country's own troubles.
"Saudi Arabia has been the victim of terrorism... We have been unmerciful in going after the terrorist and those who support them and condone them and finance them," Jubeir said. "We will continue to do so."
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan "loathed" the conflict between Riyadh and Tehran but said that Pakistan supported Saudi Arabia's efforts in the Islamic world.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia signed eight commercial agreements, mainly concerns energy, media, sports and mining, during the crown prince's visit. At a welcoming banquet, broadcast live on Saudi TV, Crown Prince Mohammed said the deals were worth some $20 billion "as a first phase."
In an interview with the Dubai-based Al Arabiya, Khan praised the Saudi crown prince, saying he was "seeking to modernise the kingdom" and "shares the same reformist ideas" as he did.
Crown Prince Mohammad was also scheduled to stop in India and China on his current trip.