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Iran, Pakistan to strengthen dialogue after tit-for-tat air strikes – Times of India

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran pledged Monday to improve dialogue and swap liaison officers as both nations sought to ease tensions after deadly cross-border strikes threatened diplomatic relations.
The tit-for-tat raids earlier this month in the porous border region of Baluchistan — split between the two nations — stoked regional tensions already inflamed by the Israel-Hamas war.
During a visit to Pakistan Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the hostilities could not be described as a “crisis” because relations had always been strong.
“It was natural that we would manage to overcome this,” Amir-Abdollahian told a news conference.
“Through joint cooperation between Islamabad and Tehran, we will not let terrorism endanger relations between us.”
Pakistan Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani told the same briefing that both sides had agreed to strengthen dialogue at all levels, and would speed up a plan to place liaison officers in each other’s countries.
“We have managed to bring this situation back to normal in the shortest time,” he said.
Tehran carried out strikes against an anti-Iran group in Pakistan on January 16, the same week the nation’s military targeted Iraq and Syria.
Two days later, Pakistan responded in kind with a pre-dawn raid on “militant targets” in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province, one of the few mainly Sunni Muslim regions in Shiite-dominated Iran.
It has seen persistent unrest involving cross-border drug-smuggling gangs and rebels from the Baluch ethnic minority, as well as jihadists.
The initial Iranian strikes, which Pakistan said killed at least two children, drew a sharp rebuke from Islamabad, with the government recalling its ambassador from Tehran and blocking Iran’s envoy from returning to his post.
Tehran also summoned Islamabad’s charge d’affaires over Pakistan’s strikes, which left at least nine people dead.
The two countries, however, last week announced they had decided to de-escalate and allow both ambassadors to return to their posts.
On Saturday, gunmen in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province killed nine people, with Islamabad’s ambassador identifying them as Pakistanis.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility.
The earlier exchange of air strikes by Iran and Islamabad prompted concern from the United States and European Union, who urged restraint, while China offered to mediate.
But both foreign ministers insisted Monday that strong long-term relations and respect for each other’s borders had ensured a swift outcome.
Pakistan’s Jilani said good relations between Pakistan and Islamabad were “an important source of stability for the whole region”.
He said both sides had agreed to speed up the development of border markets along the frontier to further encourage trade and cultural exchanges.
They would also establish a new “consultative mechanism” at the ministerial level and plan regular meetings to be held in each other’s capitals.
“Our discussions were marked by convergences of all issues of mutual interest,” he said.





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