Pakistan to host Iran’s president Monday for official bilateral talks

Islamabad — Pakistan announced Thursday that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will pay a three-day official visit to Islamabad, starting April 22, as the neighboring countries seek to mend relations after an unprecedented exchange of antiterror missile strikes on each other’s territory.

“He is coming. We welcome them,” Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar told reporters in the Pakistani capital. “The visit is on the card for April 22nd, 23rd and 24th. We are obviously making full preparations for it.”

Dar rejected the idea that Iran’s recent military standoff with Israel could lead to Islamabad and Tehran postponing Raisi’s visit.

“This visit had been planned for weeks and months before the incident occurred,” Dar stated.

The announcement comes a day after representatives to the United Nations of nearly 50 countries, including the United States, jointly condemned Iran’s missile and drone attacks against Israel over the weekend.

“We note that Iran’s escalatory attack is the latest in a pattern of dangerous and destabilizing actions by Iran and its militant partners that pose a grave threat to international peace and security,” the statement said.

Washington, the European Union, and the G7 group of industrialized nations all announced plans to consider fresh sanctions on Tehran, an action aimed at supporting Israel while persuading it against further escalation.

The Iranian attack involving some 350 drones and missiles was a response to Israel’s suspected strike on Iran’s consulate in Syria on April 1. Tehran said the strike killed killing two Iranian generals and five other officers of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On Tuesday, Dar addressed a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud in Islamabad, where they jointly urged an immediate cease-fire in Gaza but refrained from calling out Iran for launching the attack on Israel.

Pakistan and Iran share a 900-kilometer border. The countries accuse each other of not doing enough to prevent militants from sheltering on their respective soils and launching cross-border terrorist attacks.

In January, Iranian security forces launched missile strikes against what they said were anti-Iran militant hideouts in the southwestern Pakistani border province of Baluchistan. Islamabad condemned Iran’s violation of its territorial integrity and retaliated with strikes on bases of anti-Pakistan militants operating from Iranian soil.

The strikes fueled concerns about a larger conflict between the two Muslim countries and of wider regional instability after Hamas launched a terror attack on Israel on October 7.

Tehran and Islamabad swiftly undertook diplomatic efforts to ease the bilateral tensions and pledged to respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Pakistan and Iran recently renewed their pledges to build a long-planned multi-billion-dollar pipeline linking the two countries to import Iranian natural gas.

While Tehran says it has completed construction of 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its side of the border, construction has not started on the Pakistani side because Islamabad fears it would invite U.S. sanctions for importing energy from Iran.

VOA Pakistan Bureau Chief Sarah Zaman contributed to this story.

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