ISLAMABAD (Dispatches) – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is likely to visit Iran and Saudi Arabia on Saturday as part of Islamabad's efforts to defuse increasing tensions in the Middle East, diplomatic sources cited by Pakistani media said on Friday.
The sources said Khan would travel to Tehran first where he would meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday. After the meeting, the prime minister will fly to Riyadh where he will meet the top Saudi leadership.
Khan might be accompanied by a senior Pakistan army representative, they said.
Islamabad has been tight-lipped about the trip. Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Faisal on Thursday said he would update media about the visit "as and when things unfold".
"The visits of the Prime Minister to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran are on the cards," he said without giving dates for the trip.
The Express Tribune on Thursday reported that the Pakistani premier is likely to visit Iran and Saudi later this month to mediate between the two nations. However, the dates are yet to be finalized.
Last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Khan said that Donald Trump had asked him to mediate with Iran to defuse tensions in the Middle East.
Islamabad enjoys close ties with both Tehran and Riyadh and historically has been trying to tread a fine line in disputes involving the two Middle East nations.
Arab Affairs Analyst Ali Mehr was skeptical about the mediation initiative and said that Khan could at the best play the role of a messenger between the two countries.
He warned about the U.S. role and influence on Saudi Arabia saying it could prevent any breakthrough in the initiative.
According to Khaleej Times citing Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, the mediation initiative is being taken at the request of Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had during Khan's last visit to Saudi Arabia asked him to help defuse tensions with Iran as Riyadh wanted to avoid war, according to Faisal.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York last month, Khan met Rouhani as part of the diplomatic push to defuse the Middle East tensions.
To follow up the discussions, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi thrice met his Iranian counterpart Muhammad Javad Zarif in New York.