Pakistan is pushing for direct talks between Saudi and Iranian officials as part of its ongoing diplomatic efforts to defuse tension in the Persian Gulf region, informed officials told The Express Tribune.

During his visit to Tehran on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), put forward the proposal, officials told the newspaper on Monday.

According to the officials, Khan told Iranian leadership that Pakistan was not only ready to facilitate the dialogue but also willing to arrange face-to-face talks in Islamabad.

The Iranian side expressed their inclination towards the proposal with “some caveats”, they added.

Earlier on Sunday, Khan said that he wished to facilitate and not mediate between Tehran and Riyadh.

Khan emphasised that Pakistan did not want a conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia while recognising that it was a complex and complicated issue.

“This visit to Iran and the visit that I will undertake to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday is a Pakistan-led initiative. I will go with a positive mind to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will play the role of a facilitator,” he said, stressing that he was willing to host both countries in Islamabad.

“When I was in New York, I was asked by US President Trump to facilitate these talks and we will do all what we can. We would facilitate so that sanctions can be lifted (and) a nuclear deal can be signed,” Khan said.

Earlier on Friday, Iranian-flagged oil tanker was damaged by two separate explosions off the Saudi port of Jeddah, raising fears of a further escalation.

The PM also had a bilateral meeting with the President of Iran on the sidelines of the 74th UNGA Session in New York on September 2019.

The mediation initiative is being taken at the request of Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had during Khan’s last visit to Saudi Arabia asked him to help defuse tensions with Iran as Riyadh wanted to avoid war, according to Faisal.

Last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Khan said that Donald Trump had asked him to mediate with Iran to defuse tensions in the Middle East, though the US president later suggested that it was the Pakistani premier who approached him and nothing was final.

(With Inputs from IANS)