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No Rift Between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Claims Qureshi

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Fabrice Coffrini—AFP

Foreign minister tells private broadcaster Islamabad and Riyadh are each other’s ‘necessity and support’

Rejecting the impression that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s ties had deteriorated, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday said both countries are “each other’s necessity and support.”

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s ties are and were always better,” he told Geo News. “I think no one understands the depth of our relations with each other,” he said, adding that both states were also united in their stance on Israel.

Referring to Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this week, the foreign minister said several important meetings had taken place. He hoped that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would continue fulfilling the expectations they had of each other.

Reports of rifts between Riyadh and Islamabad had surfaced last week after Qureshi criticized the Gulf kingdom for refusing to summon a meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation on Kashmir. At the same time, Riyadh asked Islamabad to return $1 billion of a $3 billion loan secured in 2018; and has yet to renew an agreement for a deferred oil payment scheme. Observers had claimed Gen. Bajwa’s visit was intended to repair these rifts.

United front

On his ongoing trip to China, the foreign minister said both countries had several important issues that needed to be discussed. “Pakistan, with the help of China, raised the issue of India-held Kashmir three times at the U.N. Security Council in one year,” he said. “China had a standoff with India as well … which has not ended. Hence, you can see that Kashmir is important for both countries,” he said.

Qureshi said both countries’ foreign ministers would also discuss the evolving situation in Afghanistan, which is set to host intra-Afghan talks following a recent exchange of prisoners.

The foreign minister said that officials of both the Foreign Office and the armed forces were accompanying him during his trip, adding he had held detailed discussions with both the prime minister and the Army chief ahead of the tour. He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would also come under discussion, noting that both countries have to deliberate on the timeframes of certain schemes, including Gwadar, and also deliberate on achievable targets.

Qureshi reached China’s Hainan province on Thursday to attend the second meeting of the China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue. A spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said that the visit is intended to help the two countries enhance strategic mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation and strengthen close coordination on international and regional affairs.

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