New York Times says Saudi crown prince asked leaders of Iraq and Pakistan to speak to Iran about defusing tensions.
5 Oct 2019
Saudi Arabia and Iran have taken steps towards indirect talks to defuse tensions in the Middle East, with Riyadh asking Iraq and Pakistan to speak with the Iranian leadership about de-escalation, according to the New York Times.
In a report on Saturday, the Times said Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) asked the leaders of Iraq and Pakistan to intervene in the wake of the attacks on two Saudi oil facilities on September 14.
The United States and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for the attacks, which knocked out five percent of the global crude supply, despite Yemen’s Houthi rebels claiming responsibility for them.
But the Times reported that US President Donald Trump’s refusal to order a military response “raised questions for the Saudis about the American commitment to Saudi security, which has underpinned the strategic layout of the Persian Gulf for decades”.
The US’s lack of action “prompted Saudi Arabia to seek its own solution to the conflict,” it added.
The Saudi government told the Times that Baghdad and Islamabad had offered to mediate talks, but denied the move was at MBS’ request.
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Tehran has meanwhile said it is open to hold talks with Riyadh.
“Iran is open to starting a dialogue with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region,” Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, told Al Jazeera in an interview broadcast last week.
“An Iranian-Saudi dialogue could solve many of the region’s security and political problems,” he added.
‘I want to avoid war’
The Times, citing unnamed Iraqi and Pakistani officials, said MBS asked Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to mediate during a meeting in Jeddah last month. Khan’s two-day visit ran from September 19 to 20.
The crown prince told Khan: “I want to avoid war,” the senior Pakistani official told the Times.
Afterwards, Khan spoke to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
When Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi visited Jeddah on September 25, MBS made the same request, according to a senior Iraqi official who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity.
The official said Iraq had suggested its capital, Baghdad, as the venue for a potential meeting between Saudi and Iranian leaders.