ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani delegation that visited Saudi Arabia for assessing its military requirements in conflict with Yemeni Houthi rebels returned home on Wednesday with better understanding of Riyadh’s concerns.
The delegation comprising Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz and officers from operations directorates of the army and air force had held discussions with Saudi Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Saudi Arabia has been asking Pakistan to join the 10-nation military alliance it had assembled to fight the Yemeni rebels.
The decision to send the assessment mission to Saudi Arabia was taken after Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif following the start of air strikes in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition.
Also read: Support for defence of S. Arabia reaffirmed
Although there is a general perception that Pakistan has been receptive to the Saudi request, the government has been cautious and has so far avoided making a formal announcement in that regard.
After returning from Riyadh, Defence Minister Asif said: “The delegation had very good discussion with the Saudi defence minister. The visit helped us in having better understanding of the conflict in Yemen and concerns of the Saudi brethren.”
The delegation will submit a report on the visit to the prime minister who will decide about Pakistan’s next move.
Meanwhile, Saudi defence ministry’s spokesman Brig Gen Ahmed Asiri was quoted by the Saudi media as having said at his daily media briefing on the Operation Al-Hazm Storm: “Pakistan has also offered to join the coalition against the Houthis. …Pakistan would be sending troops to the kingdom.”
When asked about the Saudi claim, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said: “Our position remains as contained in the statements made in the last few days.”
EVACUATION: Meanwhile, a special PIA flight for bringing back Pakistanis stranded in Yemen would leave for Djibouti (Republic of Djibouti) on Thursday.
The Foreign Office said in a statement the aircraft’s departure was linked to the docking of a Chinese navy vessel at Aden port. The vessel has already reached Aden but has been allocated time slot for Thursday morning.
About 200 Pakistanis stranded in Aden will be evacuated through the Chinese ship which will take them to Djibouti from where the PIA flight will bring them to Pakistan.
Over 500 people have been evacuated from Yemen so far through a special flight.
A Pakistan Navy ship is also reaching Mokallah on Thursday to evacuate another 150 Pakistanis.
Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2015