ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif asserted that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a strong response from Pakistan.
This was said by Nawaz while chairing a high-level meeting at the PM House to discuss recent developments in the Middle East and to examine Saudi Arabia's request to join the Gulf-led operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen, said a statement issued by PM House on Thursday.
The meeting was attended by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman.
Nawaz said Pakistan enjoys close and brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and attaches great importance to their security.
The participants of the meeting decided that a high-level delegation will visit Saudi Arabia on Friday to assess the situation. Khawaja Asif, Sartaj Aziz along with senior representatives from the armed forces will be part of the delegation in this regard, the statement added.
Earlier, the Foreign Office said Pakistan was examining Saudi Arabia's request.
Sartaj Aziz confirmed that top Saudi officials had contacted the Pakistani leadership requesting it to join the Yemen operation. A decision has not yet been taken, Aziz said.
He further said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had summoned a high-level meeting this evening to consult his close aides over the matter.
Earlier during the day, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam told reporters at the weekly media briefing in Islamabad that Saudi Arabia had contacted Pakistan on an emergency basis and extended the invitation to join the operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
She did not specify the details of the request made by Saudi Arabia to Pakistan but said that the matter was being examined.
Aslam said that the Pakistani mission in Yemen has been placed on alert and has been asked to keep in touch with the Pakistan community residing there.
"The Pakistani community has been asked to be ready for possible evacuation," she further said.
The Foreign Office spokesperson said that no decision has been made by Islamabad with regard to closing its mission in Sanaa.
Diplomatic sources told DawnNews that a top Saudi functionary has contacted the top leadership of Pakistan over telephone and sought Pakistan's cooperation in the offensive launched in Yemen.
Although Pakistani authorities have given a hint of cooperation, they told the Saudis that a final decision will be takn after consulting the military.
Sources also said the Pakistan permanent mission to UN is also being briefed on this latest crisis.
Saudi Arabia and Gulf region allies launched military operations including air strikes in Yemen on Thursday, Saudi officials said, to counter Iran-allied forces besieging the southern city of Aden, where the US-supported Yemeni president had taken refuge.
Gulf broadcaster al-Arabiya TV reported that the kingdom was contributing as many as 150,000 troops and 100 warplanes to the operations and that allies Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan were ready to take part in a ground offensive in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia's SPA state news agency later said that five Muslim countries including Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan want to participate in the Gulf-led military coalition against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.
They have “expressed desire to participate in the operation” against the rebels, which the kingdom dubbed “Firmness Storm”, the state news agency further said.
These latest developments follow a southward advance by Houthi militants, who are said to be backed by Iran, who took control of the capital Sanaa in September and seized the central city of Taiz at the weekend as they move closer to the new southern base of US-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Iran condemns assault
The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned on Thursday the military operation by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies in Yemen, state television reported.
It gave no further details.
Iran denies providing money and training to the Shia Houthi militia in Yemen, as claimed by some Western and Yemeni officials.