Region cannot afford war, says FM Qureshi post Iran attack on US bases in Iraq

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday said rising tensions in the region due to the situation in the Middle East was not in anyone’s interest, adding that the region could not afford war.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Iran launched missile attacks on United States-led forces in Iraq in retaliation for the US drone strike on Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani whose killing has raised fears of a wider war in the Middle East.

“The region cannot afford war. It is not in anyone’s interest and will impact the global economy,” Qureshi said, according to a statement issued by the foreign minister’s spokesperson.

Qureshi added: “The ones who were attacked this morning are still assessing the damage. Initial reports suggest that there has been no loss of human life.”

Commenting on Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s recent statement, Qureshi said it reflected Iran’s intent to not escalate tensions.

“The statement reflected the seriousness of the situation and showed restraint. The US should also exercise caution.

“There is still a large majority in the US which is not in favour of war and does not want to thrust the US army into the frontlines,” he said.

The foreign minister added he had been in touch with his counterparts in the region. “We are also endeavouring to ensure that tensions in the region remain in check.”

Qureshi went on to say that the views expressed by him during the Senate session on Monday were the views of the government.

“It is too premature to say anything for certain as the situation is still precarious. However, Pakistan does not want tensions to escalate. This region cannot witness yet another war,” the foreign minister emphasised.

“Such matters need to be resolved through dialogue. The UN security council and the international community needs to play a role in resolving tensions in the region,” he said.

‘Pakistan will not be party to US-Iran conflict’

On Monday, Qureshi briefed the Senate on tensions in the Middle East, making it clear that Pakistan will not become party to the regional conflict.

Qureshi told the Senate that according to regional experts, the repercussions of the strike that killed Soleimani could be more severe than the 2011 raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the 2019 killing of militant Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“The situation in the Middle East is very sensitive, fluid and concerning.”

He maintained that Pakistan “does not support any unilateral action and is against the use of force as it never resolves matters”.

“Pakistan backs principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity as enshrined in the UN charter,” he said, adding that Pakistan urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

“I even urged Iran to exercise its traditional wisdom and refrain from any escalatory measures in the larger interest of the region,” the minister added.

He said Middle East cannot be pushed into another war. “It will be disastrous and Pakistan will also face the repercussions of such an occurrence,” he cautioned.

“Pakistan’s soil will not be used against any other state,” Qureshi said, adding that Pakistan “will not be party to this regional conflict”.

The foreign minister urged the UN Secretary General to play his role in safeguarding the region and “putting out this fire”.

“We are constantly monitoring and assessing the situation,” Qureshi announced, adding that he has created a task force in the Foreign Office which will keep an eye on this evolving situation on a day-to-day basis and apprise the government and present its recommendations on the issue.

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