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Pakistan to call upon OIC meeting

31 March, 2015

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ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The government has hinted at calling upon the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to play a role to end the conflict in Yemen.

“To facilitate early resolution of the crisis and to promote peace and unity of the Muslim Ummah, the prime minister will be contacting the leadership of brotherly countries,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement issued on Monday after yet another ‘high-level’ meeting on the crisis in the Middle East.

The meeting presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was attended by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Adviser to the PM on National Security Sartaj Aziz, Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, acting Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Khan Hasham bin Saddique and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry.

The decision of reaching out to leaders of Muslim countries with an eye on either convening an OIC summit or a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Islamic bloc was taken on the eve of a visit by a defence delegation to Saudi Arabia for assessing the kingdom’s requirements in the fight against Houthi rebels.

Despite having reportedly offered “army’s full potential” to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan has so far been diffident in publicly taking a policy decision on joining the 10-nation Saudi-led coalition against Yemeni Houthis.

The 57-member OIC, which is often criticised for its ineffectiveness, is dominated by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia and Iran.

Defence minister and Sartaj Aziz will lead a team to Saudi Arabia today
A source privy to discussions at the Foreign Office on the Yemen issue disclosed that the OIC endorsement, along with the Arab League mandate obtained at a summit of the Arab world over the weekend, would also be used to push the United Nations for providing a legal cover to the Saudi action.

The PM Office statement, meanwhile, said: “Pakistan calls upon the United Nations, OIC and the international community to play a constructive role in finding a political solution to the crisis.”

At the first meeting on the Middle East crisis after Saudi Arabia started air strikes on targets of Houthi rebels last Wednesday, the government had decided in principle that “any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a strong response from Pakistan”.

The decision was reiterated at Monday’s meeting which resolved: “Pakistan remains firmly committed to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan.”

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman and intelligence chief Khalid bin Bandar had called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the past six days.

Appearing on TV channels after the meeting, the defence minister said any decision on joining the Saudi-led coalition would be taken after taking parliament into confidence.

Khawaja Asif, along with Sartaj Aziz, will be leading a defence team to Riyadh on Tuesday. The government, it is said, will take the next decision on the issue after the return of the assessment mission from Saudi Arabia.

Rejecting international media reports that Pakistani troops were already in Saudi Arabia, Khawaja Asif said there were 800 to 900 soldiers in the kingdom as advisers and trainers.

He said no specific request had been received from Saudi Arabia, although they have expectations from Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in Lahore, Khawaja Asif said Pakistan would thwart any move challenging the sovereignty and integrity of Saudi Arabia.

“Our policy regarding the Yemen crisis is very clear. And under this, the Pakistan Army will foil any bid endangering the soil of Saudi Arabia,” he told journalists after attending a seminar organised by Wapda in connection with the World Water Day.

He said the Saudi defence minister had allowed Pakistani planes to pass through no-fly zone to evacuate Pakistanis stranded in Yemen. He said the government was trying to take a decision which would not only help resolve the Yemen crisis but also be “in the best interest of Pakistan in particular and the Muslims across the world in general”.

Responding to international media reports about arrival of a large military contingent in Saudi Arabia, ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asim Bajwa said in a tweet massage that 292 soldiers had travelled to the kingdom to take part in pre-scheduled military exercises codenamed Samsam.

The exercises started on March 19 near the Saudi city of Taif.

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