ISLAMABAD: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud Tuesday emphasised the importance of enhancing economic ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, saying it was the main focus of his visit to the country.
Speaking at a joint presser along with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, after arriving on a day-long visit to the country, he said that “we focused very much on the economic side of the relationship and on opportunities to expand it beyond the traditional areas of investment”.
He also stressed expanding bilateral coordination in the areas of technology and the environment, adding security and stability were the key to economic prosperity and therefore, both the countries had agreed to work together on ensuring stability in the region.
“We’ve agreed to work together on regional issues, whether it’s Kashmir, Palestine or Yemen. We’ll work together to ensure stability in both our regions,” he maintained.
Prince Faisal said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had a relationship that goes back many decades and is founded in brotherhood.
We’ve supported each other in many areas and will continue to do so, he said, adding his government valued the contribution of the Pakistani community to Saudi Arabia’s economy and was working to expand opportunities for it in the kingdom.
He reiterated that Riyadh wants to expand the dimensions of its relationship with Islamabad through Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SP-SCC).
Referring to his visit, the Saudi foreign minister said that he was in Pakistan “to follow up on the important visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia in May [this year], during which Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council was established.”
The SP-SCC, which is co-chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Prime Minister Imran Khan, was established after the two leaders signed an agreement in this regard in May, while the latter was on a three-day official visit to Saudi Arabia.
He expressed hope that the council would turn out to be a milestone in taking the relationship between the two brotherly countries to new levels, institutionalizing it and exploring all the opportunities that it has to offer.
Prince Faisal added that while Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had worked in multiple areas in the past as well, he believed that the SP-SCC would be a “more effective platform” to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Speaking on the occasion, Qureshi termed the ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia historic, saying that both the countries were very comfortable with the way things were moving on the bilateral front.
“What we are focused now on is improving our economic linkages through the enhancement of bilateral trade and promotion of investments,” he said, adding that both the countries aimed to achieve this through the establishment and activation of a special body – SP-SCC.
Referring to the meeting with his Saudi counterpart, Qureshi said that they discussed how the body would be structured and what should be their work plan for the purpose.
“We’ve decided that there will be a focal person at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here and in Saudi Arabia to oversee the progress on the bilateral front,” he said, adding that it would let them look at the bilateral relations in an institutionalized way.
The foreign minister identified Vision 2030, a national transformation plan introduced by the Saudi government, as an area in which Pakistan could contribute.
“Our skilled and semi-skilled professionals can make significant contributions to Vision 2030,” he added.
In this connection, he also highlighted the importance of building cultural ties through cultural diplomacy.
He said that he and the Saudi foreign minister had also discussed opportunities for Saudi investors to invest in special economic zones under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Qureshi thanked Prince Faisal and the Saudi government for its unwavering support to Pakistan on matters relating to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and on the issue of occupied Kashmir.
“Saudi Arabia has shown clarity and consistency in supporting Pakistan on the Kashmir issue,” he added.
Besides, he said that he had a discussion on the evolving situation in Afghanistan with Prince Faisal and their approach on the matter was the same.
Qureshi also said that he thanked his Saudi counterpart for Riyadh’s unwavering support given to Pakistan on the FATF.
The top diplomats of the two countries also discussed how to ease the Covid-19 travel restrictions, due to which around 400,000 Pakistani workers have been stranded back home.
Qureshi said that around 400,000 of over two million Pakistani workers in Saudi Arabia had been stranded at home due to travel restrictions.
“They are facing challenges, you know the travel restrictions and you know the issues of vaccination,” he added.
Saudi Arabia, which bars direct travel from Pakistan, has only approved the AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, so anyone arriving without one of those shots is required to quarantine at a cost many Pakistani workers say they cannot afford.
“We talked about the challenges that Covid-19 has imposed on all of us...it has imposed challenges, travel restrictions, all of these we are working on,” Prince Faisal said.
Earlier, in a meeting with his Saudi counterpart, Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021