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Pakistan will not become party to the regional conflict, FM told Senate

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Islamabad, Jan 06 : Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday briefed the Senate on tensions between US and Iran that arose after the killing of top Iran commander Qasem Soleimani in a US air strike, making it clear that Pakistan will not become party to the regional conflict.

The foreign minister began his speech by recounting how the crisis-like situation in the region unfolded, starting with the killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack in Iraq that led the US to carry out strikes on an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia.

The foreign minister was directed by the Senate chairman to brief the upper house on developments on the foreign policy front last week.

Qureshi told the Senate that according to regional experts, the repercussions of the strike that killed Soleimani could be more severe than the 2011 raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the 2019 killing of militant Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He said Iraq had decided to send its foreign minister to the United Nations to record protest because in their view the strike violated international law and UN charter. The Pakistani government presented its stance on the development on January 3.

“I decided to contact the important foreign ministers of the region. Yesterday I talked in detail with the Iranian foreign minister and presented Pakistan’s stance on the incident and gained information from him,” he said, adding that he also spoke with the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

“The situation in the Middle East is very sensitive, fluid and concerning.”
He recalled that the Iranain supreme leader has promised revenge over Soleimani‘s killing while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has termed this strike as “international terrorism”. Iran’s foreign minister, meanwhile, considers this act as dramatically escalating the regional situation.

The Pentagon, on the other hand, acknowledged that the strike was carried out on the direction of US President Donald Trump, Qureshi said. He added that the US State Department had said it was primarily a preemptive action and that Washington had reports that Soleimani was planning to attack US soldiers and diplomats.

“The White House stated that it was a ‘decisive defensive action’. […]These tensions have not arisen overnight but the situation has been intensifying over a period of time,” the foreign minister said, adding that this specific act by the US has aggravated the situation in the region.

He noted that the US claims that their action was “preventive” in nature and was not meant to ignite a war, and now they say they are ready to deescalate the situation.

“But at the same time they (Washington) have warned that if Iran retaliates, our response will be even stronger than before.”

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