DUBAI/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Iran is prepared to hold talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia with or without the help of a mediator, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, ahead of a visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Asked about reports that Khan, due to arrive in Iran on Sunday, may try to mediate between Tehran and Riyadh, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “I am not aware of any mediation,” according to state broadcaster IRIB.
“Iran has announced that, with or without a mediator, it is always ready to hold talk with its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, to get rid of any misunderstandings,” Mousavi added.
Two senior Pakistani government officials confirmed to Reuters that Khan was going to Tehran to try to defuse tensions between the two rivals, after U.S. President Donald Trump asked for his help.
“The prime minister is also visiting Saudi Arabia next week,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t allowed to talk about confidential matters. “His mission is to try open negotiations, or some sort of confidence building for the two rival countries to start some talks,” the official said.
Iran’s foreign minister signaled this week that his country would be willing to discuss regional issues with Saudi Arabia, but that Riyadh had to stop “killing people”.
Saudi Arabia is locked in several proxy wars in the region with Iran and has blamed Tehran for attacks on Saudi oil plants on Sept. 14, a charge Iran denies. The kingdom has said it prefers a political solution to a military one.
In a statement on Saturday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry described Khan’s visit to Tehran as “part of his initiative to promote peace and security in the region.”
Khan is scheduled to have meetings with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, it said.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Sonya Hepinstall