–Qureshi says govt to sign 8 agreements with KSA, will stay away from Yemen war
–Says upcoming Saudi visit will be ‘biggest-ever in history of bilateral relations between the two countries’
ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday revealed that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will ink eight agreements during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s two-day visit, which will help attract investment estimating $7 billion over the next two years.
Addressing a joint presser along with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, PM Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood said the Kingdom would invest $7 billion in the country over the next two years.
The announcement from the PM’s adviser has put rumours to rest which hinted at over $20bn investment by the Saudi regime. Media reports quoting sources in the Saudi embassy had claimed the size of investment to be at $20bn. “Saudi investors are more interested in the food and agriculture sectors,” he added.
A coordination council jointly headed by the crown prince and Prime Minister Imran Khan will be set up to monitor the progress on the signed agreements, FM Qureshi told reporters.
All relevant ministries will have representation in the coordination council and they will follow up on the MoUs to ensure their practical implementation, the foreign minister revealed.
During the presser, FM Qureshi underscored the importance of ties between the two countries, saying MBS’s visit will improve them further.
He said the crown prince had sent a Saudi team to Pakistan to gauge investment potential in various sectors, adding the Saudi royal did not wish to visit Pakistan just to hold discussions.
He said after holding talks with Pakistani government officials, the Saudi “advance team” reported back to their country, which prepared the groundwork for “at least 8 MoUs” between the two countries.
He said Saudi Arabia is interested in setting up an oil refinery in Pakistan, whereas it would also invest in minerals resources. “This investment is bilateral and has nothing to with CPEC,” the minister said.
Asked if Saudi investment could be termed as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, he said though it was bilateral, however, as Pakistan and China had agreed upon setting up three Special Economic Zones, it could be joined by other countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The MoUs are focused on investment, finance, power, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports sectors as well. However, the details of these agreements would be revealed later.
The FM said the Pak-Saudi relations were strained when PTI was voted to power; however, the upcoming royal visit — probably the “biggest in the history” of the two countries’ relations — has invigorated ties.
Whether the issue of Kashmir would be taken up with Saudi crown prince in view of his visit to India next week, Qureshi said Saudi Arabia was a member of the Contact Group on Kashmir and through its representative had made a clear statement supporting the stance of Pakistan.
INVESTMENT IN OIL, MINING:
Dawood said Saudi Arabia had plans for $7 billion investment in the power sector for two years besides $2 billion in renewable energy including solar and wind projects. On the Saudi interest to explore Pakistan’s oil refinery sector, he said the feasibility study by their experts on petrochemical complex and hydrocracking could take up to 12 to15 months.
He said Pakistan was in high need of refined oil products, for which Saudi Arabia had shown willingness to meet the needs of local oil market with investment of $2 billion for two years in addition to investment in Pakistan’s mining sector.
BoI Chairman Haroon Sharif said Saudi Arabia had comprehensive long-term stakes in Pakistan. Following the visit of Saudi crown prince, the BoI would remain in constant touch with their Saudi counterparts on technical level, he said.
He mentioned that Saudi Arabia was planning to develop two new cities in the Kingdom and the situation would encourage Pakistani workforce to be accommodated in diverse jobs.
The “high-powered delegation” will include the prince’s associates, ministers, advisers and CEOs of the large Saudi companies, the minister said.
MBS will arrive in Pakistan on February 16 for a two-day visit, according to the Saudi ambassador, and is expected to stay at the Prime Minister’s House.
Calling out critics, Qureshi said that even if something “good” happens, efforts are made to “unearth conspiracies” here. “No effort is being made to push Pakistan into Yemen conflict, neither has Pakistan given any assurance to join the war,” he claimed.
He also said that Pakistan would raise the matter of Pakistani nationals jailed in Saudi Arabia; however, this would not include Pakistanis involved in “heinous” crimes.
Qureshi said, “I say it loud and clear that there is no condition attached with Saudi investment.” He said former army chief Gen (r) Raheel Sharif, who is also the commander of the Saudi military alliance, had also made it clear that the force was not specific to any country or a particular sect and the suspicion in this regard was not well-counted.
FM’S VISIT TO GERMANY:
The foreign minister also announced his “very important” visit to Germany. He said he would leave for Germany on Thursday to co-chair a panel with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on the evolving situation in the region. In addition, a meeting between the two is on the cards as well.
During the visit, the FM said he would also meet the Russian foreign minister, as part of Pakistan’s policy to “keep regional stakeholders in the loop” and generate “regional ownership of the entire [Afghan] peace and reconciliation process”.
He would also hold discussions with the German, Uzbek and Canadian foreign ministers, and with a “very important” delegation comprising nine key members of the United States Senate and 10 members of the US House of Representatives.
The minister said his efforts to “reset” Pakistan’s relationship with the US now seem to be progressing forward and the “unease” in the ties has now ended. The US special envoy for Afghan peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, has issued “very positive” statements regarding Pakistan recently, Qureshi added.
It may be noted Pakistan and United State ties have witnessed a slight improvement after Pakistan successfully brought Afghan Taliban to table for peace talks with the US.