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Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir on Monday accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism for decades, saying it was “strange [for] the foreign minister of the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism to accuse others of engaging in terrorist activities”.

The minister, who is part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visiting delegation, was addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad.

When asked about Tehran’s recent allegations that held Pakistan responsible for an attack that killed more than 20 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Qureshi said that he had assured Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that Pakistan would “never condone [any terrorist] activity”.

“We have always condemned such activity. Iran is our neighbour and we would never cause any problem for them,” Qureshi said. “We respect their sovereignty and territorial integrity and I’m sure they respect ours.”

He said that Pakistan would be “helpful” if Iran comes forward with any evidence. He recalled that Pakistan had cooperated with Iran in the past to “overcome these difficulties”.

The Saudi minister, meanwhile, questioned how Iran — which he called “the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism” — could accuse others of engaging in terrorist activities.

He accused Iran of “sponsoring” terrorism “since the Iranian revolution of 1979”, adding that Iran had “established terrorist groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen. He said that “Iran had been implicated” in terrorist attacks that took place in other countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Al-Jubeir went on to accuse Iran of providing arms to terrorist groups and interfering in other countries’ affairs as well as “harbouring” terrorists of Al Qaeda, “including Osama bin Laden’s son”.

“Saudi Arabia has been a victim of terrorism,” he asserted. “We have been vigilant and unmerciful in going after the terrorists and those who support them and condone them.”

“We wish to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from the face of this planet,” he said, adding that the Iranian regime was “deflecting blame because it was facing pressure from the people”.

Regional stability

Speaking on the regional situation, the Saudi state minister said that peace in Afghanistan would be of “benefit” to the entire region, including Saudi Arabia.

He said that the Saudi Arabian regime had been working with Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and the United Arab Emirates to “facilitate an agreement between the Taliban and Afghan government” in order to “move Afghanistan towards peace”.

He also addressed the frosty relations between India and Pakistan and said that Saudi Arabia’s “objective” was to “try to deescalate tensions” between the neighbouring countries. He hoped that both countries would be able to resolve the dispute between them “peacefully”.

The statements come amid growing tensions between India and Pakistan after the former accused Islamabad of sponsoring an attack in Pulwama district of occupied Kashmir, that killed 44 Indian soldiers.

The Saudi crown prince’s agenda includes a visit to India.

‘Investment, not charity’

Stressing the importance of Pakistan-Saudi ties, Al-Jubeir said that the Kingdom had a “strategic interest” in Pakistan. He said that several Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and agreements were signed between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, “three of which involved investment in excess of $20 million”, including one regarding an oil refinery in Gwadar Port.

He said that the agreements and MoUs were “just the beginning”, making clear that “this is not charity — this is an investment”.

“There is benefit for both sides. If we didn’t believe in Pakistan, we wouldn’t have been looking at these investments,” he added.

“We are looking for ways to enhance contact between the business communities in our two countries. We are looking for ways to institutionalise the relationship between our two great nations across the board in all government departments.”

Jubeir said that the Supreme Coordination Council (SCC) — that has been established to boost political, diplomatic and trade ties — would “involve almost every facet of our governments; whether it’s security, political consultation, trade and investment, or culture”.

The Saudi minister hoped that both countries would overcome the challenges they have been facing. He thanked the Pakistani government for its “hospitality and also [its] friendship”.

Lauding the Kingdom’s move to reduce visa fee for Pakistanis, Foreign Minister Qureshi hoped that Saudi Arabia would respond similarly to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s requests to make the immigration process for Haj pilgrims easier.

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