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China Tries to Mediate as Iran-Pakistan Tensions Rise Over Airstrike

Pakistan has strongly denounced Iran’s airstrike on its Balochistan province that killed two children and wounded three others, calling it a violation of its sovereignty and a threat to regional peace. China, a close partner of both countries, has urged them to exercise restraint and avoid further escalation.

The Iranian airstrike, which took place late on Tuesday, targeted the headquarters of Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni militant group that Iran accuses of carrying out attacks on its border guards and civilians. Iran has not officially confirmed the strike, but its state-run Nour News agency reported that it destroyed the militant base with missiles and drones.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said it lodged a strong protest with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran over the “unprovoked violation” of its airspace, which it said was “completely unacceptable and can have serious consequences”.

“It is even more concerning that this illegal act has taken place despite the existence of several channels of communication between Pakistan and Iran,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Pakistan’s caretaker Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai also condemned the Iranian attack, saying it “damages relations” between the two neighbours and plays into the hands of “enemy forces” that want to destabilize Pakistan, especially Balochistan.

“The enemies will never succeed in their plans,” he said, adding that Pakistan would defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

China, which has close economic and strategic ties with both Pakistan and Iran, has called on them to work together to maintain peace and stability in the region. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular briefing on Wednesday that China considers both countries as “close neighbours and major Islamic countries”.

“We call on both sides to exercise restraint, avoid actions that would lead to an escalation of tension and work together to maintain peace and stability,” she said.

She also said that China supports the efforts of Pakistan and Iran to enhance their cooperation on counter-terrorism and security, and hopes that they can resolve their differences through dialogue and consultation.

Both Pakistan and Iran are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional bloc led by China and Russia that focuses on security and economic cooperation. The two countries have also been working on a gas pipeline project that would link Iran’s natural gas fields with Pakistan’s energy market.

However, their relations have been strained by border disputes, sectarian violence and militant activities. Iran has repeatedly accused Pakistan of harbouring Jaish al-Adl, which it considers a terrorist group. Pakistan has denied the allegations and said it is taking action against all forms of terrorism on its soil.

The Iranian airstrike came amid a series of attacks by Iran on its regional rivals, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. On Monday, Iran launched missile strikes on “spy headquarters” and “terrorist” targets in Syria and Iraq, in retaliation for a dual suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group that killed more than 90 people in Tehran. On Tuesday, Iran also fired missiles at an Israeli ship in the Red Sea, in response to Israel’s ongoing war on Hamas in Gaza.

The Iranian strikes have added to the multiple crises in the Middle East, where several conflicts and proxy wars are raging. The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where more than 200 people have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli airstrikes and shelling. The UN has also expressed alarm over the situation in Yemen, where pro-Palestinian Houthi rebels have been attacking Saudi Arabia and commercial vessels in the Red Sea, while facing a famine and a cholera outbreak.

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