PM to visit Saudi Arabia

By Makhdoom Shehryar Babar
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will pay one-day official visit to Saudi Arabia where he will meet Saudi king and crown prince.
Earlier in October, Prime Minister Imran Khan had paid a brief visit to Saudi Arabia where he met King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
During his previous visit, Riyadh leadership had agreed to remain engaged and consult closely to take forward the premier’s initiative to ensure peace and security in the region.
Prior to his Saudi Arabia’s visit, Prime Minister Imran Khan had held a meeting with Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani at Saadabad Palace in Tehran.
Speaking at a joint presser alongside the Iranian president, PM Khan said Pakistan is willing to play its role towards strengthening peace and stability in the region.
“War between Saudi Arabia and Iran should never happen. The issue is complex but can be resolved through dialogue for which I am here”, he said. “This visit to Iran and the visit which I will undertake to Saudia on Tuesday is a Pakistan led initiative. I will go with a positive mind to Saudia, Pakistan will play the role of a facilitator. We are willing to host both countries in Islamabad so that they could try and iron out their differences.”
Agencies add: Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Saudi Arabia on Saturday to reassure the kingdom’s leadership that ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia remain firm despite Islamabad’s engagement with other Muslim countries.
The visit, an Arab source disclosed, has been recently planned after signals from Riyadh that it was not happy with Prime Minister Imran 24. Khan’s decision to attend Kuala Lumpur summit being held in Malaysia from Dec 18-20.
The Kuala Lumpur summit is the brainchild of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad. Other leaders participating in the summit are Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani. Indonesian President Joko Widodo too was expected to attend the summit, but he has reportedly succumbed to pressure and one of his representatives would now attend the meeting.
Although it is too early to say how this initiative fares, the Saudis are already seeing the summit as an attempt to present an alternative to the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Visit planned after signals kingdom is not happy with Imran’s decision to attend Kuala Lumpur summit
The increasingly dysfunctional OIC works under the de-facto leadership of the Saudis.
Pakistan, meanwhile, is very keen about the summit. The Foreign Office, in one of the statements, said: “The KL summit would provide Pakistan with an opportunity to exchange views and find solutions to challenges facing the Muslim world, particularly the governance, development, terrorism and Islamophobia. The summit will also provide us an opportunity to foster cooperation in diverse areas with the participating countries.”
The plan for the summit was finalised during a trilateral meeting involving Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia in September in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA session.
PM Khan earlier dispatched Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to mollify Riyadh, where he met his counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah. According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the two foreign ministers besides talking on the bilateral agenda also “discussed the latest developments at regional and international arenas”.
FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal, at his weekly briefing on Thursday, while responding to questions about PM Khan’s expected visit to Saudi Arabia, said: “High-level political exchanges between the two countries are the hallmark of this brotherly bilateral relationship. You have witnessed the high frequency of leadership level exchanges, especially since last August. The prime minister has undertaken at least three visits to KSA since May this year.