Iran’s Rowhani secures trade deals in Pakistan as sanctions ease

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani signed several trade deals during his first visit to Pakistan on Friday as global economic sanctions on Tehran eased following a nuclear deal with world powers.

The leader of Shiite-majority Iran also called for enhanced security cooperation with his country’s nuclear-armed Sunni Muslim neighbour amid tensions with Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Rowhani's visit in Islamabad comes a few months after Iran cut a deal with world powers on its secretive nuclear programme, following decades of economic blockade by the West.

At least six deals related to trade, financial services and healthcare were signed at a ceremony overseen by Rowhani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, officials said.

No details were given.

Both the leaders vowed to enhance their bilateral economic cooperation and announced to open two more crossing points at their shared border to facilitate trade, according to Sharif’s office.

Rowhani and his delegation were expected to hold more meetings on Saturday before concluding the visit, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.

A multibillion-dollar pipeline project to supply Iranian natural gas to energy-starved Pakistan would be a key topic during the talks, the ministry earlier said.

The project began in the 1990s, but was delayed due to sanctions.

Pakistan is hoping for rapid progress after the country's central bank allowed commercial institutions to resume business with Iranian counterparts last month.

Discussions would also cover recent heightened tensions between Iran and regional rival Saudi Arabia, as well as Pakistan's possible role as mediator, Iranian officials said.

The predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia and Iran were locked in a bitter diplomatic spat following the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric by Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan had agreed to become part of a 34-nation military alliance cobbled together by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism in the Muslim world, but did not commit troops for the initiative, a move which Tehran is said to have appreciated.

Iran and its regional ally Syria are not part of the Saudi alliance.

Last update: Fri, 25/03/2016 - 18:27
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