After Pakistan strikes back on Iran, China offers mediation

The attacks have put China in a piquant situation as Pakistan is an all-weather ally, while Tehran is warming up to Beijing in recent years.

Beijing: China Thursday offered to play a “constructive role” to ease tension between Pakistan and Iran following their missile strikes against each other over the last two days and asked the two countries to “exercise restraint and calmness and avoid escalation”.

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Pakistan conducted “precision military strikes” against what it called “terrorist hideouts” in Iran’s Siestan-Balochistan province that killed 9 people in the wee hours on Thursday. The attack was seen as retaliation to Iranian missile and drone attacks on Tuesday which targeted two bases of the Sunni Baloch militant group ‘Jaish al-Adl’ in Pakistan’s unruly Balochistan province.

The attacks have put China in a piquant situation as Pakistan is an all-weather ally, while Tehran is warming up to Beijing in recent years enabling China to expand its influence in the West Asia region. China also imports a considerable amount of oil from Iran.

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“Did you say that Pakistan launched strikes on Iran? I’m not aware of this,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a media briefing when asked whether China is aware of Pakistan airstrikes inside Iran.

“But we are paying great attention to this and China always believes that relations between countries should be handled based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international law,” Mao said.

Sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and protected, she said.

“Iran and Pakistan are close neighbours and countries with influence. We hope both parties can exercise restraint and calmness and avoid escalation if they need we are ready to play a constructive role in easing the situation”, she said.

To a question by a Pakistan journalist whether China considered Iran’s airstrikes on a camp of the Sunni militant group, Jaish al Adl in Balochistan a violation of UN Charter principles and international law, Mao said, “I expressed China’s position just now.” “China always believes that relations between countries should be handled based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international law,” she said.

“And we think all parties should respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries,” she said.

“We sincerely hope that both Pakistan and Iran can exercise restraint, calmness and avoid escalation. We believe both parties will resolve their disputes through consultation and dialogue,” she said. China’s offer to mediate can be a tightrope walk as Pakistan, a Sunni majority country, and Iran, with predominantly a Shia majority, have a tenuous relationship.

However, last year China claimed diplomatic success last year in another set of similarly stressed countries. It had brought arch-rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia together following which the two countries restored diplomatic ties after decades.

China’s USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), connecting Pakistan’s volatile Balochistan, neighbouring Iran, with its Muslim-majority Xinjiang province, is increasingly coming under pressure from Baloch nationalists and Sunni extremist groups with repeated attacks on thousands of Chinese workers employed in scores of projects in Pakistan. 

(Except for the headline, the story has not been edited by Siasat staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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