Pakistani FM in Tehran amid standoff with US
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has met with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif in Tehran to discuss bilateral ties and the latest regional and international developments.
Asif arrived in Tehran on Monday for a one-day visit at the head of a political and economic delegation for talks with Zarif as well as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Vice President for Economic Affairs Mohammad Nahavandian.
Iran’s Tasnim news agency said bilateral relations and the new US strategy in Afghanistan were at the heart of the negotiations.
Asif will head to Iran’s holy city of Mashhad later in the day to visit the shrine of Imam Reza (Peace Be Upon Him), the eighth Imam of Shia Muslims, and meet local officials, the news agency reported.
The Pakistani foreign minister is on a four-nation tour of China, Russia, Iran and Turkey as tensions have been rising between Islamabad and Washington over the latter’s new strategy in Afghanistan. He has already traveled to China and plans to visit Turkey next before winding down his trip in Russia.
Pakistani diplomats said the trip sends a strong message to the US that Pakistan enjoys broad regional support, after President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of “continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists” in Afghanistan.
General John Nicholson, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, said later that Washington was “aware of the presence” of Taliban leaders in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar.
On August 30, the Pakistani National Assembly passed a resolution denouncing Trump’s and Nicholson’s statements on Pakistan as “hostile and threatening.”
Speaking before the assembly, Asif urged the government to close off “ground and air lines of communication through Pakistan.”
“Afghanistan, the US and its allies should close their borders to leaders of terrorist, militant groups carrying out acts of terrorism against Pakistan,” he added.
Afghanistan has been torn by decades of Taliban-led militancy and the 2001 invasion by the US and its allies, while the Daesh terrorist group has emerged there more recently despite the presence of foreign troops.