Reiterating Pakistan's commitment to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Saudi Arabia against any threat to its territorial integrity and sovereignty, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday urged Riyadh and Tehran to resolve their difference through peaceful means in the larger interest of Muslim unity in this challenging time.
-- Attacks on embassy, consulate condemned
-- Islamabad urges Riyadh, Tehran to lower tensions
-- Government welcomes 34-state Islamic military alliance
The Prime Minister was talking to Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Dr Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir who paid a working visit to Pakistan, according to a press release issued by the Foreign Office at the conclusion of his visit. The visit comes at a time when tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have escalated following the execution of a top Shia cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr by the kingdom along with 46 others on terror charges.
During his visit, the Saudi Foreign Minister called on the Prime Minister and held a delegation-level talks with the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs. He also met Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at General Headquarters. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during Dr Adel Al-Jubeir's call, stressed that the people of Pakistan held the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in high esteem and also had deep respect for the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques.
"The Prime Minister affirmed that the people of Pakistan will always stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Saudi Arabia against any threat to territorial integrity and sovereignty of Saudi Arabia," stated the statement. It stated that Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir briefed the Prime Minister on the recent situation in the Kingdom's relations with Iran. "Pakistan expressed deep concern at the escalation of the situation and condemned the burning down of Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Pakistan believes in respect for international norms and adherence to principle of non-interference," the statement quoted the Prime Minster as having told the Saudi Foreign Minster.
It stated that the Prime Minister called for resolution of differences through peaceful means in the larger interest of the Muslim unity in this challenging time. It further stated that the Saudi Foreign Minister briefed the Prime Minister on details of the Islamic coalition, announced by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism. The Prime Minister stated that Pakistan welcomes Saudi Arabia's initiative and stressed that Pakistan supports all such regional and international efforts to counter terrorism and extremism. The Prime Minister called for further strengthening and expanding bilateral relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, in all fields of co-operation, including defence, security, economic and commercial co-operation.
The Prime Minister urged intensified efforts to further boost bilateral trade. The Prime Minister also urged increased Saudi investment in Pakistan, especially in the energy sector where Pakistan offers attractive investment regime. The Saudi Foreign Minister briefed the Prime Minister on the ongoing programmes to enhance Saudi investment in critical sectors of Pakistan's economy.
The visiting Foreign Minister also held a delegation-level talks with Advisor to the Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz. In the talks, held under a bilateral political consultation mechanism, the two sides discussed the ways and means to further expand areas of bilateral co-operation.
The two sides also discussed ways to deepen bilateral co-operation in all fields. Both sides agreed to hold political consultations twice a year alternately in Islamabad and Riyadh. Views were also exchanged on fighting terrorism and extremism. The Advisor briefed the Saudi Foreign Minister on the successful campaign that Pakistan has waged against the twin menace of terrorism and extremism. The two sides underscored the need to develop jointly a counter narrative against extremism and terrorism with the help of Ulemas.
According to the statement, the two delegations also discussed regional and global issues of common concern. It was agreed that both countries would make a concerted effort to promote multi-faceted co-operation and work together to defeat our common enemy - terrorism and extremism. "All the above meetings were held in an atmosphere of warmth, friendship and cordiality that characterises the historic and fraternal relations between the two countries," the statement added.
In a brief chat with a state-run television, the visiting Saudi Foreign Minister said that his visit was aimed to broaden and deepen the important relationship between the two countries. During the talks, he said he discussed regional issues and the challenges being faced by the two countries as well as enhancing economic co-operation and investment in various fields. "It was an opportunity to exchange views on a number of issues of concerns to our two countries and also an opportunity to broaden and deepen our relationship," he added. Talking to the state-run TV, Sartaj Aziz described the visit as "very beneficial" in which the two sides expressed the resolve to increase co-operation in all fields. For the purpose, he said that a decision was taken at that the high level political consultation between the two countries will be held twice in a year at foreign ministers' level, both in Islamabad and Riyadh. In the political consultation at foreign minister level, he said the two countries would review the bilateral relationship and also determine the future targets.
He said the visiting Saudi Foreign Minister also briefed Pakistani leadership on the 37-nation military coalition led by the kingdom that it was an anti-terrorism coalition. "As Pakistan has always participated both on regional and international levels in the initiatives against terrorism and we have welcomed this coalition", he said, adding that a meeting would be held in Saudi Arabia this month to which defence ministers of all the member nations will be invited.
In the meeting, he said the future strategy of the coalition will be chalked out and the level of co-operation by any member state would also be determined at the defence ministers' meeting. To a question whether Pakistan's role in the coalition has been defined or it is still awaited, he said the Saudi Foreign Minister clarified that it was a voluntary obligation for nations and every country has to take decision on the level of co-operation.
"Some things are clear [that Pakistan can contribute] like training and capacity building [of troops], intelligence sharing and counter-narrative against extremism, are obvious...but it will be further defined with the passage of time based on requirement," he said, adding "at present Pakistan is co-operating with many countries and our experience in the counter-insurgency that we have gained in last few years can be shared with other countries."
He said the training programs to armed forces of some countries that Pakistan is currently running could also be extended to the coalition members. About Saudi -Iran diplomatic row, Aziz said the two sides also exchanged views on the tension between the two Muslim countries and Pakistan expressed its concern over the attack on Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad, which was very regrettable as under the international laws, it was responsibility of the host countries to protect the foreign missions.
He said that Pakistan also expressed concern over the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran and expressed the hope that the escalation is reduced and stressed the need for unity among Muslim Ummah so that it could not impact the whole region. Asked whether the escalation in tension might be reduced in the near future, Aziz said it could be expected and efforts would also be made to reduce the tension. However, he referred to the charged atmosphere, saying in the current scenario it will take some time to reduce the escalation. He said that in April, 2016, the OIC summit is going to be held in Turkey in which efforts would be made to normalise the situation.
"I am optimistic that efforts would be made until April that the escalation is not further increased and find a political solution to the issues so that the two countries and their allies try to improve their ties because any further escalation will not only be terrible for the region but also for the people," he added. The Saudi Foreign Minister was earlier scheduled to hold a joint news conference along with Sartaj Aziz but it was cancelled. The reason for which was cited by the Foreign Office as the delay in arrival of the Saudi Foreign Minister.
Earlier, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and other senior government officials welcomed the Saudi Foreign Minister upon his arrival at Noor Khan Air Base. Jubeir left for Saudi Arabia on Thursday night after holding talks with the Pakistani leadership.