Iran and Pakistan call for a cease-fire in Gaza

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi started an official visit to neighboring Pakistan on Monday, where he denounced Israel for the alleged “genocide” in Gaza.

Raisi’s three-day trip comes days after Tehran and Israel carried out unprecedented direct attacks against each other, raising concerns of a wider conflict in the Middle East.

Soon after arriving in the capital, Islamabad, the Iranian president held delegation-level talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and oversaw the signing of several pacts and memorandums of understanding to strengthen mutual ties.

The two leaders later addressed a nationally televised joint news conference where Sharif commended Tehran’s “resolute position” on the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza and the “unprecedented brutality” being inflicted on Palestinians there.

“We respect the people and the government of Pakistan who are fed up with the oppression being committed against … the people of Gaza, and the genocide and the child-killing … by the Israeli Zionist regime with the support of the United States and other Western countries,” Raisi stated.

Sharif urged all the Muslim nations to work together through various international platforms, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to bring an end to the hostilities in Gaza, which erupted six months ago.

“Even today, the (United Nations) Security Council resolution is being flouted and the world is silent on it,” said the Pakistani leader, referring to the Security Council resolution adopted March 25 demanding an “immediate” cease-fire in Gaza.

Iranian president visits Pakistan amid tension in Middle East
Iranian president visits Pakistan amid tension in Middle East
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Pakistan is among the countries that do not recognize Israel nor have direct channels of communication with the Jewish state over the issue of Palestinian statehood.

Raisi’s visit comes more than a week after Iran’s direct attack on Israel with more than 300 drones and missiles. Tehran said the military action was a response to an April 1 suspected Israeli strike against an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria that killed seven members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, including two generals.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and leading to the capture of about 250 hostages.

Inside Gaza, Israel’s counteroffensive has killed nearly 34,000 people, two-thirds of them women and children, Gaza health officials say. Israel says the death toll includes thousands of Hamas fighters.

Speaking Monday, the Iranian president said that in talks with Pakistani hosts, both countries agreed to increase bilateral trade and emphasized the need to jointly combat terrorism, organized crime, and drugs.

“The current level of economic and commercial ties between Iran and Pakistan by no means acceptable,” Raisi said. “Therefore, we have decided to increase the trade volume … to $10 billion annually in the first step,” he added.

Bilateral trade between the two countries currently stands at around $2 billion. Both countries have in the past publicly vowed to boost their trade ties but have failed to deliver on those pledges.

Sharif and Raisi did not mention the status of a long-delayed plan to link the two countries through a pipeline to export Iranian natural gas to Pakistan.

While Tehran claims it has completed construction of 1,100 kilometers of the pipeline on its side of the border since signing an agreement with Islamabad in 2009, work has not started on the Pakistani side because Islamabad fears the project would invite U.S. sanctions for importing Iranian gas.

Washington has imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran’s energy sector over its nuclear program.

Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to sue Islamabad in international arbitration and impose a penalty of around $18 billion for breach of contract.

Iran and Pakistan share a 900-kilometer border and have a history of strained relations. The countries accuse each other of allowing fugitive militants to shelter on their respective lands and launch cross-border terrorist attacks.

The border tensions escalated in January this year when Iranian security forces launched missiles against what they said were anti-Iran militant hideouts in the southwestern Pakistani border province of Baluchistan.

Islamabad condemned Iran’s violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and retaliated with strikes on bases of anti-Pakistan militants operating from Iranian soil.

The unprecedented exchange of so-called counterterrorism strikes raised concerns about a larger conflict between the two Muslim countries. But tensions have since been largely defused and Raisi’s visit is part of diplomatic efforts the two countries have undertaken to mend bilateral relations.

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