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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif pictured during a meeting with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh on Monday.—Reuters
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif pictured during a meeting with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh on Monday.—Reuters

ISLAMABAD: As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif embarked on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia and Iran, their focus on the first leg of the trip looked to be on participation in a ‘counter-terrorism coalition’, even though the trip was billed by both the government and military as a mediation effort.

In Riyadh, the PM and army chief held talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The army chief separately also met Saudi defence minister Mohammad bin Salman.

The government, while announcing the visit, had indicated that the visit was being made out of concern over the escalation of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

But from the Prime Minister Office’s statement on the meetings in Riyadh it looked as if the emphasis was on bilateral relations and Pakistan’s participation in the 34-nation ‘counter-terrorism alliance’, set up by Saudi Arabia. The mediation initiative, meanwhile, appeared to have been relegated down the priority list, with the PM offering Pakistan’s good offices for the resolution of the Saudi-Iranian row.

“During the talks, both sides underscored the need for further strengthening of bilateral relations in all fields, including defence, security, economic and commercial cooperation,” the PM’s Office said in a statement, filled with familiar platitudes about the reverence in Pakistan for the king and the cultural, religious, and historical ties between the two countries.


PM and army chief apparently shifted their focus from mediation; will travel to Tehran today


The statement further said that during the talks there was discussion on the “various facets of enduring cooperation” between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan under the counter-terrorism coalition.

Saudi Arabia had, last month, announced a 34-nation alliance to fight terrorism. Even though Pakistan seemed to have been caught unawares about the setting up of the coalition it had officially agreed to join it.

Pakistan’s role in the coalition is still not clear despite some hints by the government that it will be limited to providing military hardware, training of security forces of participating countries, intelligence sharing and developing a narrative against terrorism and extremism.

At the meeting, PM Sharif shared a broad outline of Pakistan’s participation in the coalition.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and other members of Pakistani delegation busy in  consultations during the flight to Riyadh on Monday.—INP Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and other members of Pakistani delegation busy in consultations during the flight to Riyadh on Monday.—INP

In the statement, the PM was quoted by his office as having reiterated the pledge to “stand with the people of Saudi Arabia against any threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the kingdom”.

“Views were exchanged on fighting terrorism and extremism. It was agreed that both countries would work together to defeat our common enemy — terrorism and extremism,” the statement further said.

Riyadh-Tehran spat

Mr Sharif also expressed concerns over recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran that began after the kingdom executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr, a fierce critic of the royal family.

Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after the Saudi embassy in Iran was ransacked by protesters agitating against the execution.

Mr Sharif, the statement said, called for an early resolution of the differences through peaceful means and reminded that “Pakistan has always expressed its readiness to offer its good offices to brotherly Muslim countries for resolution of their differences through dialogue and reconciliation”.

The king, it was said, “appreciated the initiative of the Pakistani leadership”.

After an overnight stay in Saudi Arabia, PM Sharif and Gen Raheel Sharif will briefly visit Tehran on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2016

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Comments (25) Closed



Syed Zafar Kazmi U.S.A
Jan 19, 2016 08:06am

Looks like Pakistan is not doing what it seems to be saying. If it plays any role other than a neutral intermediary, bringing the two Muslim countries together, as every Pakistani is fully aware inclusive all political parties, it is going to bear catastrophic consequences for the region. Even any participation in the 34 countries coalition exclusive of Iran and Syria is quite detrimental to regional peace and Pakistan's geopolitical as well as very identifiable economic interests.

sak
Jan 19, 2016 08:26am

Does KSA indeed want or need any mediation?

Saad Zulfiqar
Jan 19, 2016 09:01am

Saudi Arabia is actually repeating its old way to deal with Iran. On the other hand, Iran is also trying to maintain his existence. As, previously Pakistan play a very important role to solve differences between these two in some other matters. But, the problem is still there. The real matter is the sect. The solution is that both these countries should concentrate on Islamic teachings and practices.

Muhamamd
Jan 19, 2016 09:05am

This is how Pakistan should display its maturity. Dialogue and reconciliation. Regardless of the results good gesture from Pakistani leadership both political and military.

Adnan Aziz
Jan 19, 2016 09:34am

"Mediation" and that too by Pakistan?

I have been raising this question ever since the said visit was announced. What clout has Pakistan got with the two countries? Having good relations with these two countries is an entirely different matter, mediation is another.

Satt
Jan 19, 2016 09:38am

People will never know what cooked and what burnt and who ate.

>:)
Jan 19, 2016 09:56am

" The mediation initiative, meanwhile, appeared to have been relegated down the priority list, with the PM offering Pakistan’s good offices for the resolution of the Saudi-Iranian row."

Uffffff! This is what I get for getting my hopes up.

padha khan
Jan 19, 2016 10:04am

Good Job Nawaz and Raheel salute to you guys.

Realistic
Jan 19, 2016 10:07am

Highly appreciated step for PM and our Army chief.

World should learn from it.

Freda Shah
Jan 19, 2016 10:24am

Joining an anti-terrorism coalition makes sense, but supporting one Muslim country against another would be sheer madness.

watson
Jan 19, 2016 10:24am

NS is leaning towards SA as he has vast business interests and also stayed there for a while during the Musharaff era.But this is a mediating trip and if you show that you are leaning towards one party then you cannot mediate.

Islamabad Calling
Jan 19, 2016 10:39am

It all depends on how the Iranians respond today. I have this feeling that there response will be: Welcome to Tehran. Please have some really good Irani Qehvah. Is there anything else you would like us to do for you? And, please shut the door when you are leaving.

Pakistan is already in contact with Saudi Arab on the conflict and their position very well. If this was mediation they should have visited Tehran first. This seems more like communicating the demands of Saudi Arab to the Iranian Government.

khanm
Jan 19, 2016 10:40am

@padha khan for what!!!!!! what is the achievement...

Baaligh
Jan 19, 2016 11:02am

"The mediation initiative, meanwhile, appeared to have been relegated down the priority list, with the PM offering Pakistan’s good offices for the resolution of the Saudi-Iranian row." Masses had never hoped of any thing more than this ....but the offer of our office could easily have been made thru a phone call to the King or even to the crown price etc. it is beyond comprehension to pay a visit just for the purpose of extending our offer.

Adnan Aziz
Jan 19, 2016 11:40am

@padha khan What job?

Sami
Jan 19, 2016 11:42am

Seems to me KSA hijacked the purpose of the mission tand used the opportunity to once again try and recruit Pak to side with KSA and to outsource its foreign policy in the Muslim world to KSA. Be a broken record, just keep saying "NO".

Asghar
Jan 19, 2016 11:46am

@Satt well said. No one will know what they actually discussed and agreed upon other then usual media statements

Abu Mohammed
Jan 19, 2016 11:59am

Why meeting a lot ! in one week 2nd meeting and 10th of meetings in a couple of month, on the other hand first meeting with neighbour Muslim country Iran going to happen

Mahmood
Jan 19, 2016 12:26pm

I expect nothing will come out of these efforts.

But Saudis clearly want Pakistan to commit to the 'alliance' which was never discussed nor terms defined.

Iranians have no reason to talk to Saudis anyway. They've already achieved what no body could deliver for them for 35 years!

raja
Jan 19, 2016 12:45pm

Seems like most pakistanis are happy with being kept in the dark. Strange people

Irfan Malik
Jan 19, 2016 01:10pm

Pakistan is just a messenger for Iran from KSA. Pakistan is such a small state that it can't have Mediation capabilities between the 2 big players

M.Saeed
Jan 19, 2016 01:49pm

Saudi king appears having a flat face. The long burgeoning pride of unlimited wealth making him headstrong, is fast on down-hill. Must be a warning from the Ultimate. Needs to see the light and rise from the intoxication of oil-fortunes.

Syed Ganga Din
Jan 19, 2016 02:28pm

Don't talk non-sense. There is no such thing as "discussion". They told you what to do.

M. Malik
Jan 19, 2016 02:32pm

The era of living high - when oil prices were, $50, $100 or $140 a barrel is over.

Saudis are facing a budget deficit, reduced oil revenue, increased social spending to control restless large unemployed population, while huge spending on defense armaments with the fears of rise of Iran...

It does not bode well for Saudis and her gulf cousins for the foreseeable future.

M.Rafique Jamali
Jan 19, 2016 10:55pm

Iran and oman should be the part of the coalition. Why they are not so far?