Planned talks come amid pressure to join Saudi-led campaign against Iran-allied Houthis in Arabian Peninsula nation.

Last update: 2022-04-22 09:24:15

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, is expected to urge Pakistan to reject a request to join a Saudi-led campaign against Iran-allied Houthi forces in Yemen when he arrives for talks in Pakistan. Zarif, who will arrive in Islamabad on Wednesday, has repeatedly said the conflict in Yemen should be overcome through dialogue and not firepower. Nawaz Sharif, Pakistani prime minister, called on Tuesday for Iran to get involved in talks on security in the Arabian Peninsula nation as parliament debated whether Pakistan should join the Saudi-led operation there. Other countries accuse Iran of using the conflict as a cover to expand its regional influence. "All countries must work towards establishing stability and preventing the spread of insecurity in the region," Zarif said last month. Al Jazeera's Asad Hashim, reporting from Lahore, said the planned talks in Islamabad come against a backdrop of Pakistan trying to position itself as a peace broker in Yemen. "Pakistan, of course, is treading a fine line on Yemen, between its longstanding alliance with Saudi Arabia and its relatively close relations with neighbouring Iran," he said. Last month, a Saudi-led coalition began conducting air strikes in Yemen against Houthi fighters. Saudi Arabia and Yemen share a border and Saudi Arabia says it is afraid that instability might spill over to its territory. Saudi Arabia wants Sunni-majority Pakistan to join the coalition and, to this end, has requested ships, aircraft and troops. Pakistan's parliament began debating the request on Monday and legislators have been united in the view that Pakistan should not send troops for the Saudis to use in Yemen. Although there are many parties in the complex Yemen conflict, Pakistani politicians fear it could develop into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and inflame already simmering sectarian tension at home. Pakistan shares a long, porous border with Iran in its gas and mineral-rich southwestern province of Balochistan, where separatist groups have for years been battling the government. Eight Iranian border guards were killed in southeast Iran in a cross-border raid near the frontier with Pakistan on Monday, Iranian media reported. Sharif has said he will defend Saudi Arabia's "territorial integrity" but not spelled out what, if any, commitments he has made. On Tuesday, Sharif told legislators that Iran should be part of the debate. Al Jazeera