Iranian president likely to visit Pakistan this month

In Local
April 08, 2024



ISLAMABAD:

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is expected to undertake an official visit to Pakistan in the third week of April as part of efforts by the two neighbours to remove mistrust after the two exchanged missiles in January.

There is no official word yet from either side about the exact dates of the Iranian president’s visit but sources said Raisi would be in Islamabad on April 22.

This will be the first visit by any head of state to Pakistan since the new government took charge after the February 8 elections.

The visit is part of ongoing efforts by the two countries to deepen their cooperation that in January was threatened by the missile exchanges.

Iran launched missile strikes in Balochistan on January 16 in an unprecedented move to violate the sovereignty of Pakistan. Iran claimed it targeted the hideouts of terrorists. Pakistan denied the claim and retaliated with its own strikes inside Iran, bringing the two neighbours on the verge of potential war.

Also read: Twenty-seven die in militant attacks on Iran security forces

However, tensions de-esclated quickly after high level contacts established between the two countries. Within days of the missile exchanges, the Iranian president vowed to travel to Islamabad and both sides agreed to restore diplomatic ties and set new terms of engagements to avoid future escalations.

Both countries agreed at the time that the Iranian president would visit Pakistan after the general elections.

Sources said agenda of President Raisi includes bilateral ties, security cooperation, gas pipeline and potential freed trade agreement. Both sides during the visit of Iranian president would discuss the regional and international issues including the Afghanistan situation and conflict in the Middle East.

Progress on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline would be discussed and options to avoid potential sanctions from the US.

After years of delay, Pakistan recently agreed to begin work on its side of the border to import gas from Iran through the pipeline.

Also read: Pakistan, Iran on course to restore diplomatic ties

The project was to originally complete in December 2014 and Iran said it completed work on its side. But Pakistan never initiated work on its side, fearing US sanctions.

Nevertheless, Islamabad finally agreed to lay the 80 kilometers pipeline from Gwadar to the Iranian border in what is seen as effort to avoid a potential penalty Iran may seek from Pakistan for not adhering to the deal.

The US, however, made it clear that Pakistan’s decsion may invoke sanctions as it doesn’t encourage countries to do business with Iran particularly in the energy sector.

Pakistan feels that constructing the pipeline on its territory cannot trigger sanctions.

Sources said Iran is ready to discuss alternatives to avoid a situation where Pakistan may face sanctions. Tehran said such workable solutions are already in place with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The two countries are also keen to conclude the free trade agreement. However, in the absence of formal banking channels that deal remains a challenge.

President Raisi and the Pakistani leadership would also discuss the Afghan situation. Both are increasingly worried over the presence of terrorist outfits threatening the regional security.

Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.