Pakistan recalls ambassador from Iran and warns of ‘serious consequences’ after violation of airspace and strikes in border area

Pakistan has decided to recall its ambassador from Iran and suspend all high-level visits ongoing or planned between the two countries following the “unprovoked violation of its airspace” by Tehran, the Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said.

“Pakistan has decided to recall its ambassador from Iran and the Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan who is currently visiting Iran may not return for the time being. We have also decided to suspend all high-level visits which were ongoing or were planned between Pakistan and Iran in the coming days,” reads the Foreign Office (FO) statement issued on January 17, 2024.

Pakistan condemns violation of its airspace and territory

The development came after Pakistan said neighboring Iran had violated its airspace resulting in the death of two children in a border village, hours after Iranian state media said missiles targeted two bases of militant group Jaish al Adl on Tuesday (January 16, 2024).

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said two children were killed and three others were injured in what it called an “illegal” airstrike.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the unprovoked violation of its airspace by Iran and the strike inside Pakistani territory … This violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty is completely unacceptable and can have serious consequences,” the official statement said.

Pakistan warns of ‘serious consequences’

“This illegal act is completely unacceptable and has no justification whatsoever,” Pakistan said in a statement. “Pakistan reserves the right to respond to this illegal act. The responsibility for the consequences will lie squarely with Iran,” it warned.

In an earlier statement, Pakistan lamented that the violation of airspace took place despite the existence of several channels of communication between Pakistan and Iran.

Iran’s response

Iran, on the other hand, claimed that it targeted an “Iranian terrorist group” as it also launched attacks in Iraq and Syria.

“None of the nationals of the friendly and brotherly country of Pakistan were targeted by Iranian missiles and drones,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “The so-called Jaish al-Adl group, which is an Iranian terrorist group, was targeted,” he added.

Iran said its attack conducted using “precision missile and drone strikes”, destroyed two strongholds of the Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl in the Koh-e-Sabz area of Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Pakistan’s statement did not mention the location of the incident.

The missile strikes were part of Iran’s sweeping reprisals across Syria, and Iraq, in retaliation for a suicide bombing by ISIS-K, the Afghan branch of Islamic State, that killed 85 Iranians in the south-eastern city of Kerman on January 3 this year.

Diplomatic blowback

Surprisingly, a few hours before the strike, Pakistani caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar met Amir-Abdollahian on the sidelines of the Davos Forum.

Relations between Pakistan and Iran reached a new low after Iran violated airspace in the Balochistan region. Over the years, both Iran and Pakistan have blamed each other for sheltering militants along their shared 950-km border.

Pakistani analysts have expressed surprise at the escalation by Iran despite the continuing conflict in the Middle East region.

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