Pakistan and Iran said on Friday they had agreed to “de-escalate” tensions after an exchange of deadly attacks between the two countries this week.
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The reciprocal bombings that took place in the Balochistan region, which the two countries share and whose border is very porous, have further heightened regional tensions at a time when the Middle East is reeling from war between the Palestinian Islamist Hamas and Israel is being shaken in the Gaza Strip.
Pakistani authorities convened a security council on Friday that included the chiefs of the army and military intelligence after Thursday morning – in turn targeting “terrorist hideouts” in Iran – an Iranian attack on Tuesday evening with a missile and the drone attack on a “ “Terrorist” group in Pakistani territory.
According to authorities, a total of eleven people, mostly women and children, were killed in these two attacks.
Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Tehran and announced that the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan, who was in its country, would be prevented from returning to Islamabad.
The United Nations and the United States have called for restraint, while China has offered to mediate.
But after a telephone conversation between Pakistani Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Pakistani diplomacy announced in a summary of their conversation that they had “agreed to de-escalate the situation.”
“The two foreign ministers agreed that cooperation and coordination in counter-terrorism and other areas of common interest should be strengthened,” Pakistani diplomacy further stated.
For his part, the Iranian minister stressed in a statement that “cooperation between the two countries to neutralize and destroy terrorist camps in Pakistan is essential.”
Iran and Pakistan – the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons – have faced latent insurgencies along their thousand-kilometer-long shared border for decades and often accuse each other of allowing these rebel groups to operate from their respective territories.
This calm rhetoric is in line with the predictions of experts who said both camps would seek appeasement in the wake of these attacks.
Pakistani Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar canceled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, following the strikes.
He is head of a transitional government responsible for preparing for parliamentary elections on February 8, in which the army has been accused of interfering.
Both Tehran and Islamabad said they had bombed insurgents seeking refuge abroad.
But never before have Pakistan and Iran, which until then enjoyed friendly relations, carried out attacks of this magnitude on their neighbor's territory.
Security forces have set up checkpoints in remote villages near the bombing area in Panjgur district (West Pakistan).
“Helicopters flew overhead and headed towards the area Iran was bombing, but we didn't know what was happening,” Maulana Mohammad Sadiq, 42, a cook, told AFP. over prayers in a small seminary located about five kilometers from the site where an Iranian missile was fired.
Villagers fear that a deterioration in relations between the two countries will lead to the closure of borders with Iran, on which the region is economically dependent.
“If the Iranians close the border, people will starve and there will be more insurgents because young people will join separatist organizations,” said one of them, Haji Mohammad Islam, 55.
The Baloch rebellion against the Pakistani authorities demands a better distribution of natural resources.
According to human rights organizations, military repression has led to a number of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.