- PM takes foreign policy officials, military leaders into confidence over visit to KSA
- Welcomes Saudi decision to halt airstrikes in Yemen, urges peaceful resolution of crisis
A high-level consultative meeting on the latest situation in Yemen Wednesday decided that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif will visit Saudi Arabia on a day-long visit, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, PM’s Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry will be a part of the delegation.
Chairing the meeting attended by the COAS, defence minister, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Foreign Affairs Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, PM Sharif welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision of halting air strikes in Yemen and said this would pave the way for a peaceful, political resolution of the conflict.
During the meeting, the premier took senior foreign policy officials and military leaders into confidence over his visit to Riyadh during which he will discuss the evolving situation in Yemen and express solidarity with the leadership and people of Saudi Arabia.
A source in the government told Pakistan Today that the prime minister and army chief were leaving for Saudi Arabia to woo back the Saudi Arabian leadership by explaining the regional and internal challenges faced by Pakistan.
“Since the situation in Yemen is now under control of the Gulf Cooperation Council and its allied forces, Pakistani leadership is visiting Saudi Arabia to explain its viewpoint to the leadership of KSA,” the source added.
The source said that now the Saudi Arabian leadership would be listening to Pakistan more than what happened in a meeting between Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.
International media reports had suggested that last week’s meeting between Saud al-Faisal and Shahbaz Sharif did not go well as the Saudi Arabian Prince had put some tough questions to the younger Sharif.
PM Sharif’s visit– his second in two months– coincides with developments in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition claimed success in thwarting the threat from Houthi militia and announced the conclusion of the Operation Decisive Storm and start of the next phase that has been codenamed Operation Hope.
The premier last travelled to Saudi Arabia on March 3 when he committed defence cooperation with the kingdom. The defence cooperation was taken by the Saudi leadership as a commitment to joining the 10-nation alliance it later formed to fight the Yemeni Houthis. However, the posture later adopted by Pakistan annoyed Arab leaders.
The otherwise decades-old warm relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and other Arab states saw some tough times when Islamabad decided to stay away from the Saudi Arabia-led offensive in Yemen.
Despite repeated requests for provision of troops besides air and naval support from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan conveyed to Riyadh its concerns over the provision of troops, asking the Gulf countries to use peaceful means to resolve uprising in Yemen.
This triggered heat between the Arab states and Pakistan with United Arab Emirates (UAE) state minister for foreign affairs hurling open threats to Pakistan on social media website twitter.
The offensive remarks were responded strongly by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who, in violation PM’s directive to keep quiet, responded to the UAE minister in strong words.
This diplomatic row also reflected the anger and anguish of the interior minister who is unhappy with the prime minister and some of his cabinet members for the past three months. The minister also refused attending successive high level meetings held at the Prime Minister’s House. In a major snub, Nisar also did not attend ceremonies held in honour of Chinese President Xi Jinping three days ago.