Saudi foreign minister to visit Pakistan for talks; repair bilateral ties

Islamabad: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud will visit Islamabad on Tuesday to hold talks with the Pakistani leadership on bilateral and global issues, it was announced here on Monday, amidst efforts to repair the relations that faced some stress in recent times.

The Saudi Foreign Minister will be accompanied by a delegation comprising senior officials of the Saudi government, according to Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO).

The Saudi minister’s visit at the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi holds special significance following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s fence-mending trip to Saudi Arabia in May.

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The two foreign ministers will exchange views on the entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional and international issues, the FO said.

The Saudi Foreign Minister will call on other dignitaries as well during the visit.

It will provide a timely opportunity to review progress in bilateral cooperation in line with the vision of the leadership of the two countries, the FO said.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long-standing and historic fraternal relations, rooted deep in common faith, shared history and mutual support, it said.

The relationship is marked by close cooperation in all fields and mutual collaboration on regional and international issues, the FO said.

The high-level visit from Riyadh will take place amidst the volatile situation in neighboring Afghanistan from where the US and NATO troops are withdrawing by the end of August.

Frequent high-level visits are a key feature of the relationship that serve to further deepen and broaden the relationship in myriad dimensions, the FO said.

The visit of the Saudi Foreign Minister will reinforce the positive momentum in high-level exchanges and the deepening of bilateral cooperation in diverse fields, it added.

Bilateral ties have come under periodic strain due to different reasons since 2015 when Pakistan refused to send troops for the Saudi war in Yemen.

Pakistan is also believed to be not happy with the budding ties between Saudi Arabia and India.

The difference came to open when Pakistan had to pull out of a summit of Muslim leaders in Malaysia in 2019 as Saudi Arabia was not part of it and saw it as an effort to create a rival group of non-Arab Muslim countries.

Pakistan also returned USD 3 billion to Saudi Arabia after the summit fiasco.

Foreign Minister Qureshi had criticised the Saudi Kingdom for failing to call a meeting of OIC foreign ministers on the Kashmir issue.

However, efforts were being made to stitch the differences and put the relationship back on track.

The breakthrough came when Bin Salman in March called Khan over the telephone and invited him for a visit.

Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis.

The Saudi foreign minister’s visit comes roughly a week after 62 Pakistani prisoners were repatriated from Saudi Arabia via a special flight. The prisoners were brought back home after Prime Minister Khan intervened and arranged funds for their repatriation, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid said in May that 1,100 Pakistani prisoners in Saudi Arabia were being repatriated to Pakistan.

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