In this photo released by the Foreign Office, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, right, shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 24, 2019.
In this photo released by the Foreign Office, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, right, shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 24, 2019.

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met Friday with leaders from neighboring Pakistan to discuss bilateral matters and Tehran's escalating tensions with the United States.

Zarif and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi led their respective delegations in formal talks before the visiting Iranian diplomat went for a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Officials said the discussions focused on bilateral issues and regional developments. 

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have been escalating since U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to try to cut Iran's oil exports to zero and beef up the American military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.

Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif call
Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called on Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, after holding delegation-level talks at the foreign ministry, May 24, 2019.

After landing in Islamabad late Thursday, Zarif told Iranian media he would brief Pakistani officials on what he described as "dangerous" developments in the region.

Before wrapping up his visit, the Iranian foreign minister also called on Pakistan military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the two discussed "matters of mutual interest and evolving situation in the region."

A military statement issued after the meeting quoted Bajwa as telling Zarif "that war is not in anyone’s interest and all sides need to make efforts to keep conflict away from the region.”

Pakistan already has said it will not take sides in the current confrontation and described the crisis in the Persian Gulf region as "disturbing." Islamabad says, however, Washington's decision to deploy an aircraft carrier, as well as bombers, has fueled tensions in "the existing precarious security situation" in the Middle East.

"We expect all sides to show restraint, as any miscalculated move can transmute into a large-scale conflict," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal told a weekly news conference Thursday. "Pakistan always supports dialogue and desires that all issues should be settled peacefully and through engagement by all sides."

Border security

The bilateral talks were also expected to review issues related to border security, officials said. 

Pakistan and Iran share a long border of more than 900 kilometers. Iranian officials regularly allege anti-state Sunni militants use hideouts on the Pakistani side to orchestrate terrorist attacks inside Iran.

For its part, Islamabad says separatist groups active in its volatile Baluchistan province use sanctuaries on the Iranian side to plan cross-border terrorist attacks.

Khan last month undertook his first official visit to Tehran and held extensive talks with President Hassan Rohani on strengthening bilateral security, economic and trade ties.

Rohani noted that Khan's visit would be "a turning point" in improving bilateral relations.

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