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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday categorically said Pakistan has no intention to give airbase to the United States after its troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Speaking at a presser here, he said Pakistan would welcome third party mediation in Kashmir from Saudi Arabia or any other foreign power, as he said India has always shied away from such a possibility.

“Pakistan welcomes third-party facilitation by Saudi Arabia or any other country for resumption of talks with India,” he added. The foreign minister’s remarks came after he, along with Prime Minister Imran Khan, concluded a state level visit to Saudi Arabia.

He said Pakistan would not make any U-turn when it comes to Kashmir issue, adding that Kashmir is not an internal matter of India.

He reiterated that there is no ambiguity and Pakistan will continue highlighting the plight of Kashmiris at all international fora.

By revoking Article 35-A, he added, India has been distorting the demography of the valley and denying the Kashmiris their identity.

The foreign minister confirmed that there were ‘no formal talks’ at the moment with India, however, he said if India wants to make it happen, it must take the first step forward.

He called upon India to give relief to the Kashmiri people, who have been suffering a 19-month-long military siege and the search and cordon operations, and thus “pave way for a conducive environment for talks”.

Qureshi maintained that Saudi Arabia is the friend of Pakistan and also has business ties with India, which is a big importer of Saudi oil. He recalled that the ceasefire agreement between Pakistan and India was welcomed by the world, including Saudi Arabia.

On Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, he said it led to the development of a positive understanding at both sides that promoting their mutual relationship was a need of the hour.

He said besides agreement on investments, bilateral trade, and creation of job opportunities, the extraordinary development was putting in place for the first time an institutionalized mechanism with three pillars – security, economic and cultural and soft image, and chalking out who would be leading the respective areas.

Qureshi said under the vision 2030 of the Saudi crown prince, around 10 million workforces were required in the next few years and the leadership wanted to allocate a big chunk for Pakistanis.

“In addition to blue-collar jobs, we have to prepare our workforce for the white-collar jobs through their capacity-building at professional sides,” he said.

He said the $500 million Saudi funds would help Pakistan meet its energy needs through the development of hydropower projects.

The minister said Saudi Arabia has a special place in the Muslim community which looked towards it for a leadership role, saying that Pakistan welcomed the initiation of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran to ease tension.

Asked if the Saudi assistance to Pakistan would lead to favours in return, he said: “Pakistan is not paying a price. It knows its own interests”.

The foreign minister strongly condemned the Israeli violence against innocent and unarmed Palestinians. He urged the international community to mobilize its efforts to get stopped the Israeli atrocities against Palestinians and their forced evictions from their homes.

Referring to his telephonic conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Qureshi said Mevlut Cavusoglu is in Saudi Arabia and during talks with the Saudi foreign minister today, he will propose an emergency ministerial level meeting of the OIC to effectively raise voice of Muslim Ummah on the Palestinian issue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021