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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office, on Monday, rejected the media reports as "baseless and misleading" about an alleged visit to Israel by former Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari to have conveyed a purported "message" to the then Mossad chief Yossi Cohen in November last year.

Reacting to the reports, Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri rejected the reports "baseless and misleading", saying: "No such visit to Israel has been undertaken." The spokesperson further stated that categorical rejection was also issued earlier in the day by the former SAPM himself.

He recalled that the Foreign Office had rebutted similar "false" reports earlier on 18th December 2020.

"As reiterated earlier, there is no change in Pakistan's principled position. Pakistan has consistently called for a two-state solution, with pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Sharif as the capital of Palestinian State," the spokesperson added.

Earlier, in the day, Zulfi Bukhari refuted the reports to have travelled to Israel which claimed that he had "secretly" visited Israel and allegedly delivered a "message" to the then Mossad chief Yossi Cohen in November last year.

The former special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to reject the reports that surfaced, on Sunday, when Israel Hayom - an Israeli national Hebrew-language free daily newspaper and news website - while quoting an unnamed source in Islamabad, claimed that Zulfi Bukhari allegedly paid a brief "secret" visit to Israel in the last week of November 2020 to convey the purported "message" to Cohen.

"DIDNOT go to Israel. Funny bit is Pakistani paper says I went to Israel based on "Israeli news source" & Israeli paper says I went to Israel based on a "Pakistani source"-wonder who this imaginative Pakistani source is? Apparently, I'm the only one who was kept out of the loop," Bukhari stated in the tweet.

Dr Arslan Khalid, a focal person to Prime Minister on digital media, through a tweet termed the reports as "fake" and based on "propaganda".

"A propaganda fake news shared by an Israeli account & propagated by the usual lot again. Zulfi Bukhari had already clarified it last year that he was never sent by the government to Israel. This Israel-India-Pak Fake news peddlers' network is getting so boring & predictable," he tweeted.

Bukhari had also rejected similar reports that surfaced last year in December.

Earlier, on Sunday, the Israeli media outfit claimed that Bukhari paid a brief visit to Israel in the last week of November ahead of the two countries [Pakistan and Israel]'s participation in a joint naval exercise together with the US Navy in the Black Sea.

The Israeli media outlet claimed that Bukhari, while taking advantage of his British passport, allegedly arrived at Ben Gurion Airport from Islamabad on a connecting flight to London from where he was shifted to Tel Aviv for meetings with senior Israeli officials in the Foreign Ministry, allegedly after "heavy pressure" from the UAE.

"[Bukhari] conveyed the message to former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen," the Hebrew-language Israeli daily further claimed.

According to the official website of the American Navy, the "Sea Breeze 2021 (SB21) exercise, being held from June 28 to July 10 in the Black Sea region, will focus on multiple warfare areas including amphibious warfare, land maneuver warfare, diving operations, maritime interdiction operations, air defence, special operations integration, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue operations."

It stated that this year's iteration has the largest number of participating nations in the exercise's history with 32 countries from six continents providing 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams scheduled to participate.

"Ukraine and US are co-hosting the exercise in the Black Sea with participation and support coming from 32 countries in total: Albania, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States," it added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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