Pakistani PM, army chief visit Saudi Arabia to help resolve Gulf crisis

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday met King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia at the Royal Palace in Jeddah, according to an official handout issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in Islamabad.

PM Sharif, accompanied by Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Senator Ishaq Dar, and senior officials arrived in the kingdom on a one-day visit for consultation with the Saudi leadership over the Gulf crisis.

Reports say the Pakistani prime minister may also make stopovers in other Gulf nations involved in the crisis.

Before his departure, the Pakistani prime minister chaired a consultative session in capital Islamabad to mull Pakistan’s response to the crisis. The conference was attended by Adviser Sartaj, Pakistan’s Ambassador to UN Maleeha Lodhi, as well as envoys to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait, who were called back especially for the event.

The ambassadors briefed the prime minister on the ground realities, while officials of the Foreign Office also weighed in their expertise. The prime minister said that Pakistan enjoys brotherly relations with all the countries in the region and will do all it can to amicably resolve the crisis.

During a media talk on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Kazakhstan, Sharif had stressed that Pakistan enjoys good relations with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, and would try its best to resolve the differences between the Arab countries.

On Thursday, the National Assembly expressed its deep concern over the Gulf diplomatic rift. A resolution passed by the parliament called upon all the countries to show restraint and resolve all differences through dialogue.

Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria also said that Pakistan believes in unity among Muslim countries and has made consistent and serious efforts for its promotion. He refused to comment on whether the country had taken any steps to mediate the crisis.

Saudi Arabia is home to more than 2.2 million Pakistanis, while Qatar, a much smaller country by comparison, hosts around 115,000 Pakistani citizens, according to data.

Those expatriate Pakistanis have a significant effect on their country’s economy, with foreign remittances playing a critical role in bolstering Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves.

Last week, Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, Bahrain and UAE, cut off all ties with Qatar on its support of extremism and terrorism, as well as close ties with Iran. The diplomatic and business boycott was later adopted by Yemen, one of the Libyan governments, Maldives and Mauritius.

Kuwait is attempting to play the role of a mediator and hopes to diplomatically resolve the crisis.

Qatar has denied the claims made by Saudi Arabia and the other states.

A six-member Qatari delegation had reportedly visited Islamabad last week to relay a message from the Qatari emir, asking Pakistan to play a positive role in resolving the crisis, local media reported. The Foreign Office had denied knowledge of any such visit.

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