Saudi Arabia and Pakistan agree to restore strained ties

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan agree to restore strained ties

Saudi Arabia and its long-time ally Pakistan on Saturday signed several agreements and vowed to renew ties strained by months of disagreement over policy over the Kashmir dispute.
On his seventh visit to the wealthy kingdom since his election in 2018, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was warmly welcomed by Saudi officials in the western coastal city of Jeddah.

He was greeted by Saudi Arabia’s de facto Crown Prince, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at the airport, before speaking with Saudi officials at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah.

“They affirmed the depth of relations between the two brotherly countries and stressed the importance of expanding and intensifying aspects of bilateral cooperation and coordination,” a Saudi statement said.

Although the kingdom was the first foreign country Khan visited after taking office, Riyadh appeared frustrated with Islamabad last year.

In a statement in August, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called on the Saudi Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to convene a high-level meeting on Kashmir.

The appeal raised eyebrows in Riyadh where it was widely seen as a warning that Pakistan was preparing to convene a session outside of OIC auspices.

Saudi Arabia prides itself on its role as guardian of Islam’s holiest sites and is particularly sensitive to any movement that could undermine its leadership of the 57-member pan-Islamic body.

While the kingdom has backed Pakistan with billions of dollars in aid and loans in recent years, observers say it is also keen not to upset India, a key trading partner and Saudi oil importer.

Kingdom recalled $ 1 billion from a $ 3 billion loan to cash-strapped Pakistan, and an expired multibillion-dollar oil credit facility in Islamabad has not been renewed, diplomatic source said to the AFP news agency in September.

Previously, Pakistan had rejected calls to send ground troops to support Saudi Arabia’s troubled military campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. But Khan’s visit appears to have restored cooperation between the two countries who are both heavily engaged in the “war on terror” which requires effective intelligence sharing.

“Both sides stressed the need for concerted efforts by the Islamic world to confront extremism and violence and reject sectarianism,” the Saudi statement said.

‘Deepen and diversify’

The state-run Saudi news agency said the two sides had signed deals dealing with the treatment of criminals and criminality. They also agreed to two memorandums of understanding on combating drug trafficking and financing energy, water and infrastructure projects.

The two countries also agreed to create a Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordinating Council.

“During the meeting, it was agreed to further strengthen, deepen and diversify existing bilateral political, economic, trade, defense and security relations,” a Pakistani statement said.

“The talks were marked by exceptional cordiality and a commitment to strengthen the upward trajectory of bilateral relations,” he added.

Pakistan has close ties to Saudi Arabia, with over 2.5 million of its nationals living and working in the kingdom, but it also has close ties to Iran and represents Tehran’s consular interests in the United States. United.

For decades, Pakistan has tried to balance its strong relationship with Saudi Arabia and its ties with Iran, with which it shares a border of nearly 1,000 km (625 miles).

In 2019, Khan traveled between Saudi Arabia and Iran in a bid to calm animosities between rival powers.

His visit to Jeddah comes as Saudi Arabia and Iran hold secret talks in Iraq, the first major effort to defuse tensions since regional powers severed relations in 2016 after angry Iranian protesters execution by the kingdom of a Shiite cleric, attacked Saudi diplomatic missions.

“The visit of the Pakistani Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia is an important step in bilateral relations,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan tweeted on Saturday.

“The kingdom is keen to further strengthen relations between sister countries and to allow broader economic cooperation.”


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