ISLAMABAD: Amidst unsubstantiated rumours that Pakistan will commit troops to Saudi Arabia for the protection of its borders, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in an address today urged a peaceful solution to the Yemen crisis through dialogue with warring factions and reiterated the importance of the Saudi Kingdom as a ‘strategic ally’.
Nawaz in his speech today upheld Parliament’s recent resolution to stay 'neutral' in the Yemen conflict, and repeated the words of the resolution regarding the importance of Saudi Arabia as an ally. “We stand with them shoulder to shoulder,” he said.
Read the full text of Parliament's resolution here.
“We are also in touch with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to assure that their disappointment was based on an apparent misinterpretation of the Parliament's resolution," said Nawaz. "Pakistan does not abandon friends and strategic partners, specially at a time when their security is under threat.”
Pakistan firmly believes that President Mansur Hadi’s government will be important to maintain peace and stability in Yemen, said Nawaz.
The premier's remarks were an apparent reference to the tensions between Pakistan and long-time ally Saudi Arabia which have risen in the past week, as Parliament unanimously passed a resolution urging the Sharif-led government to keep a neutral stance in the Yemen conflict.
Nawaz said, “Some media reports are speculative and tend to create misunderstandings between Pakistan and its Arab brothers.” We have not responded to these speculations because we believe that public comments will be counterproductive, he added.
“Parliament had affirmed in clear and categorical terms that any violation of territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia will not be tolerated. This is promised despite the massive commitment of our troops in operation Zarb-e-Azb,” said Nawaz.
The premier said that he had "also conveyed this to Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Zarif that the violent overthrow of the legitimate government in Yemen by Houthi rebels has set a dangerous precedent that was fraught with serious risks for the entire region. I urged Zarif to use Iranian influence to bring Houthi rebels to the negotiating table.”
“We have already intensified our contacts with Saudi Arabia to monitor the ongoing situation,” said the premier while giving a policy statement after doing consultation with Military leadership.
Nawaz was flanked by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, Tariq Fatemi and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid.
Read Dawn editorial: Arab frustration with Pakistan
Pakistan's Parliament on Friday passed a resolution backing the government's commitment to protect Saudi Arabia's territory from Houthi rebels, but declined Riyadh's request for Pakistani troops, ships and warplanes inside Yemen.
Expressing “unequivocal support for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”, the resolution that the lawmakers agreed upon stated that “in case of any violation of its territorial integrity or any threat to Haramain Sharifain, Pakistan will stand shoulder to shoulder with Saudi Arabia and its people”.
Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirate's (UAE) minister of state for foreign affairs, lashed out at Pakistan's vote on Saturday, terming it “contradictory and dangerous and unexpected”, and accusing Islamabad of siding with Iran, which is accused of backing Houthi rebels.
Gargash added that Pakistan's stand would come at a "high cost."
But Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan hit back on Sunday night in an unusually strongly-worded statement, accusing the UAE of “levelling threats.”
“This is not only ironic but a thought-provoking moment that a minister of UAE is hurling threats at Pakistan. The statement of the UAE minister is in stark violation of all diplomatic norms prevalent according to the principals of international relations,” Nisar said.
Earlier, an urgent consultative meeting was called by Nawaz Sharif on the Yemen-Saudi Arabia issue at PM House. Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Sartaj Aziz, Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry attended the meeting chaired by the premier.