ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia treated on Thursday a crucial visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif to Riyadh in a low-key manner.
There was no substantive announcement from either side even after Prime Minister Sharif along with his delegation started the journey back home after completing a daylong fence-mending trip.
Pakistan government’s indecision over joining the Saudi-led military coalition during the 27-day aerial strikes against Yemen’s Houthi militia, despite verbal assurances of commitment to Saudi security, had angered the Arab leadership.
PM Sharif and his delegation opened the trip with a meeting with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz at Al-Ouja Palace and later met Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammad bin Naif, and Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman.
He also called on President Mansour Hadi, recognised by Pakistan as the legitimate ruler of Yemen.
The Saudi media, which at the start of the Yemen offensive had been at the forefront in announcing ‘commitments’ by Mr Sharif in his conversations with the Saudi leadership, had little to say about the prime minister’s meetings in Riyadh.
The Saudi Press Agency reported on the reception the Saudi king hosted for Mr Sharif and his delegation in which he was said to have spoken to his guest about the historical pictures in the palace and heritage items there.
“During the talks, they discussed bilateral relations and aspects of cooperation between the two fraternal countries, and reviewed the latest events, at the regional as well as international arenas,” SPA said.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif was quoted by SPA as saying: “Pakistan stands by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and supports its decisions in this regard.”
While the PM Office did not issue any statement on the visit except for announcing his meetings, it sent to journalists a copy of official newswire APP’s dispatch from Riyadh which said: “The leadership of both the countries discussed the situation arising out of the Yemen issue and matters of mutual interest.”
The usually active military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa’s twitter account too remained silent.
The visit, second by the prime minister to Riyadh in two months, in which Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif was asked to accompany, according to Pakistani diplomats, was meant to clarify Pakistan’s position after the misunderstanding created during the Yemen conflict and reassure the Saudi monarch about abiding commitment to the Kingdom’s security, while also making a ‘consolation offer’.
The details about the proposal were discussed during Mr Sharif’s meetings with the Crown Prince and other Saudi ministers.
“Ways for enhancing ties in all fields were discussed” in the meetings with the Saudi ministers, the Saudi media reported.
FO spokesperson Tasneem Aslam, earlier in the day at the weekly media briefing, explained the purpose of the Riyadh trip, saying the government is “trying to understand a friend and a brother’s perspective”.
OIC: The spokesperson said OIC foreign ministers’ meeting was scheduled for next month, which would take up a resolution proposed by the recent Senior Officials Meeting. She said Pakistan had been asking the OIC, UN and international community to take proactive measures for resolving the situation in Yemen.
“We are in contact with other countries. Pakistan has not specifically requested an OIC summit,” she added.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2015