ISLAMABAD: A Saudi official met Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on Thursday for discussing regional security and bilateral defence cooperation.

“Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al-Ayish, Assistant Defence Minister for Military Affairs, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, visited General Headquarters today and called on Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif,” the ISPR said in a statement.

“Matters related to regional security and bilateral defence collaboration including training exchanges came under discussion,” it said.

Though ISPR did not clarify which regional security aspect came under discussion, the two countries have been closely coordinating on terrorism.

Pakistan had earlier in December joined the 34-nation counter-terrorism coalition announced by Saudi Arabia, but had said that the decision on the extent of its participation would be taken after receiving details about it from Riyadh. It is speculated that the Saudi official was here for sharing the awaited details on the coalition.

Saudi Arabia is expected to convene a meeting of the coalition partners in January.

Military spokesman Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, however, denied this and said the discussions instead focused on bilateral cooperation.

Islamabad and Riyadh added another dimension to defence cooperation in October when Pakistan trained Saudi Special Forces in counter-terrorism. Gen Sharif had in November travelled to Saudi Arabia for talks with Saudi King Salman on counter-terrorism cooperation.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2016

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