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Imran Khan visited Saudi Arabia

15 December, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: In a major outreach to the Arab countries, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday visited Saudi Arabia, while Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa travelled to Abu Dhabi.

Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was, according to a diplomatic source, in Pakistan on an unannounced trip.

Prime Minister Khan held wide-ranging consultations with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman covering bilateral matters and developments in the regional context, according to a PM Office press release. PM Khan emphasised the strategic importance of Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relationship and termed it a pivotal partnership for peace, progress and prosperity.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the ongoing bilateral cooperation between the two countries. It was noted that the establishment of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SPSCC) had provided a firm institutional mechanism to advance bilateral cooperation in diverse fields in a robust manner. The two sides hoped to further advance this process during the second meeting of the SPSCC expected to take place early next year.

The prime minister apprised the crown prince of the latest situation in India-held Kashmir, marked by continuous lockdown and other restrictions since Aug 5. This was accompanied by India’s belligerent rhetoric and actions along the Line of Control.

PM Khan thanked Saudi Arabia for its traditional support to the Kashmir cause, including its active role in the OIC Contact Group on Jammu & Kashmir. The two sides discussed ways of further advancing the Kashmir cause through the OIC and other means.

In the context of the Middle East, the prime minister reiterated Pakistan’s perspective that disputes and differences be resolved through political and diplomatic means. Pakistan would continue to facilitate all efforts in that direction with a view to precluding conflict, defusing tensions and preserving peace for the benefit of the region and the world.

The Saudi side offered all possible support in the development of tourism sector in Pakistan. In this context, it was agreed that Saudi team would undertake a visit to Pakistan soon.

Prime Minister Khan extended warm felicitations on Saudi Arabia’s assumption of G20 presidency. He said this was a reflection of the kingdom’s leadership role and stature in the international community. Pakistan wished Saudi Arabia a highly successful G20 presidency. Mr Khan underscored the unique strength of Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations, based on mutual trust and understanding.

He noted that high-level visits were the hallmark of the relationship and the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February had ushered in a new era of deeper engagement across the economic, investment, energy, security and defence and people-to-people domains.

As a special gesture, the crown prince came along with Prime Minister Khan after the bilateral meeting to see him off at Riyadh International Airport.

The PM earlier visited Madina for pilgrimage to the shrine of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Mr Khan was accompanied by Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood.

The visit comes ahead of the upcoming Kuala Lumpur Summit being hosted by Malaysia from Dec 19-21. The summit is a brainchild of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The plan for the summit was finalised during a trilateral meeting involving Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia in September in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

PM Khan has confirmed his participation in the summit that is also being attended by leaders of Turkey, Qatar and Iran in addition to hosts Malaysia. Around 450 leaders, scholars, clerics, and thinkers from 52 countries are expected to attend the event.

KL Summit is being seen as an attempt to create a new bloc in the Muslim world that could become an alternative to the dysfunctional Organisation of Islamic Cooperation led by the Saudis. This development has upset the Saudis, who are taking it as a challenge to their dominance in the politics of the Muslim world.

Military exchanges with Iran have also been a matter of concern to the Saudis. Last month, Army Chief Gen Bajwa visited Iran, while Iranian Naval Chief Rear Admiral Dr Hossein Khanzadi was in Pakistan earlier this week.

PM Khan is believed to have undertaken the trip to Saudi Arabia to assuage the reservations of the kingdom about Pakistan’s engagement with Iran and participation in the KL Summit.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also visited Riyadh earlier this week. He had met his counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah. According to the Saudi Press Agency, the two ministers, besides talking on the bilateral agenda, also “discussed the latest developments at regional and international arenas”.

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