–Visiting dignitary to hold meetings with PM Imran, FM Qureshi on maiden trip to Islamabad
ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud will be visiting Islamabad on Thursday, the Foreign Office (FO) confirmed on Wednesday.
According to a statement issued by the FO, the visiting dignitary will call on Prime Minister Imran Khan and hold meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. This would be his maiden visit to Pakistan, during which the exchange of views would cover bilateral matters and regional issues of mutual interest, the statement added.
“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy a deep-rooted and longstanding fraternal relationship. The two countries are committed to further strengthening bilateral cooperation in all fields. Frequent high-level visits are a key feature of the relationship and serve to further deepen and broaden mutual collaboration,” the statement further said.
The visit comes amid speculations of tensions between the two countries. It is worth mentioning here that days after Pakistan faced embarrassment after it pulled out of the much-trumpeted Kuala Lumpur Summit at the eleventh hour, a report in the local media had claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) did not pay heed to the FO warning of a potential diplomatic conflict between Islamabad and Riyadh in the backdrop of hostile relations between the latter and Ankara – a key participant of the summit.
Citing its sources, a local English daily had reported that PM Imran had accepted the invite from his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad despite a forewarning by the FO that the “move would have implications” on the diplomatic front.
The publication had said that the FO had advised caution when the government received the formal invitation.
“The office also wanted to avoid grandstanding over the summit as the kingdom and its regional allies viewed it with suspicion,” the report had quoted a senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) official.
“The government was informed in categorical terms that Pakistan’s participation in the summit at any level was bound to invite Saudi anger,” the official had said, adding, “We had suggested to first assess the purpose and objectives of the summit.”
“The PMO, however, confirmed prime minister’s participation anyway,” he said.
Pakistan was one of the first countries with whom Prime Minister Mahathir shared his plans for holding the summit when he had met Prime Minister Imran along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York in September this year. Later on, PM Imran had formally conveyed his acceptance of the invitation for attending the summit when Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Bin Haji Yahya had called on him in Islamabad in November.
However, clouds of uncertainty started to loom over Pakistan’s presence at the summit when PM Imran went on a hurried tour to the kingdom on December 15, just three days before the event. A day earlier, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa had visited Abu Dhabi where he called on Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan.
Subsequently, on December 17, the government had formally announced that it would not attend the event “at any level”. In a media talk, FM Qureshi had confirmed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were “worried that the event could cause ‘division in Ummah’ and lead to setting up of an organisation parallel to the existing Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)”. It merits a mention here that the OIC is under the influence of mega-rich Kingdom.
On December 20, Turkish President Erdogan had dropped a bombshell, saying that Pakistan decided to stay away from the summit because of “Saudi threats of economic sanctions”.
A day later, on December 21, Saudi Arabia rejected reports that Pakistan bowed out of the Kuala Lumpur Summit under its pressure.
In a statement, the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Islamabad had clarified that relations between the two countries are superior to the language of threats. These ties are strategic based on mutual trust, respect and understanding, it had added.
The statement noted that the two countries enjoy a consensus of views on most regional and international issues, especially the issues of Islamic nation. It said that Saudi Arabia has always stood with Pakistan in difficult times and that the kingdom strives always to stand with Pakistan to be a successful and stable country.