Home Diplomacy Iranian foreign minister seeks to de-escalate tensions with Pakistan

Iranian foreign minister seeks to de-escalate tensions with Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD:Iran’s foreign minister has arrived in Pakistan for talks on de-escalating tensions after deadly air strikes by Tehran and Islamabad earlier this month killed at least 11 people, marking a significant escalation in fraught relations between the neighbours.

Hossein Amirabdollahian landed at an airport near Islamabad before dawn and held discussions described as “in-depth talks” with his Pakistani counterpart, Jalil Abbas Jilani, at the foreign ministry in Islamabad.

The Iranian foreign minister will also meet Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-Haq-Kakar.

Relations between the two countries worsened on January 17, when Iran launched air strikes in Pakistan’s south-western Baluchistan province, targeting what Tehran said were hideouts of the anti-Iran militant group Jaish al-Adl, or the Army of Justice.

Pakistan said two children were killed and three others were injured.

Angered over the strikes, Pakistan recalled its ambassadors from Tehran and launched air strikes against alleged militant hideouts inside Iran, in the Sistan and Baluchestan province, killing at least nine people.

Islamabad said it was targeting Baluch militant groups with separatist goals.

Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with suspicion over militant attacks on their sides of the border.

Experts say the tit-for-tat strikes this month were at least partially prompted by internal political pressures though they also raised the threat of violence spreading across the Middle East, already unsettled by Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

During his visit, Mr Amirabdollahian is also expecting to brief his hosts about an incident on Saturday in which unknown gunmen shot and killed at least four Pakistani labourers and wounded three others in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province.

Pakistan has condemned the killings, describing the attack as “horrifying and despicable”.

Relatives of the victims rallied on Sunday, demanding that the bodies of their loved ones be brought home. Pakistan said arrangements are being made for that with Iran’s help and that the three injured workers are being treated at an Iranian hospital.