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ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia is set to become a third strategic partner in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and has reportedly agreed in principle to invest heavily in Pakistan after it was formally invited to join the Beijing-sponsored mega venture.

The landmark announcement by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry came in the backdrop of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates apparently aimed at convincing Islamabad’s allies in the Middle East to help the government deal with a looming financial crisis.

“A high-level coordination committee has been constituted and it has the complete backing of the Saudi King, His Highness Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, as well as the Crown Prince [Mohammad bin Salman] and PM Khan,” said the minister, who was part of the prime minister’s entourage during the trip, at a press conference here on Thursday.

A high-level Saudi delegation comprising ministers for finance and energy as well as business heads would visit Pakistan in the first week of October to work out details of a grand economic partnership, Mr Chaudhry said, adding that major investments from Saudi Arabia were expected

He said Saudi Arabia was the first major country to have been formally invited to become a partner in the CPEC. “Our strategic cooperation has been revitalised. We have assured the Saudi leadership that we will continue to provide security to their country and provide strategic support wherever needed,” he added.

Information minister says high-level delegation from kingdom to visit Pakistan in October to finalise details

The information minister particularly pointed out that Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE remained frosty over the past few years but their visit helped revitalise the bilateral ties.

While the UAE would send its economic team to Pakistan for further discussions in October, Abu Dhabi agreed to cooperate in a water supply project for Karachi, he announced. He said the visa-related problems being faced by Pakistanis were also discussed during the meetings in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Earlier, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed PM Khan and his delegation on their arrival at Abu Dhabi airport.

According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, the visit of the PM-led delegation came in response to the invitation extended by the Crown Prince. Mr Khan was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.

The FO statement added that the visit helped strengthen the bonds of friendship between the regional countries and to reflect the depth of the historical relationship since Pakistan’s establishment to the present day.

The Crown Prince congratulated PM Khan on his election and the peaceful transition of government in Pakistan. He wished him success in the implementation of his reforms agenda.

PM Khan expressed his sincere appreciation for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to him and his delegation. He extended an invitation to Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to visit Pakistan on mutually convenient dates, which the latter happily accepted.

The two sides discussed cooperation in fields of mutual interest and agreed to work closely to develop them to benefit the people of the two countries which are interlinked with common traditions and values and strong historical relations.

The meeting discussed issues of regional and international dimensions, notably the fight against the spread of extremism and terrorism in the region and world by sustainable strategies to root out terrorism.

The two sides also discussed ways for strengthening economic cooperation, increasing bilateral investments and exerting all possible efforts to eliminate obstacles and overcome all difficulties that would obstruct the smooth flow of trade and investment between the two countries, as confirmed by the Emirati side that Pakistan is considered as an important trading partner of the UAE.

The UAE confirmed to maintain its efforts for development work in Pakistan.

Pakistan appreciated the initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to eradicate polio worldwide and the pivotal role of the UAE in supporting global efforts to eradicate this menace.

Taking note of the contributions made by Pakistani professionals as well as skilled and unskilled labour, the two sides acknowledged that they had been an important component of the UAE’s success story.

The two sides discussed current issues of common interest in the region, both sides highlighted the importance of peaceful solutions to the crises in the region, the Pakistani side lauded the humanitarian role played by the UAE by providing generous assistance.

Both sides expressed their satisfaction over their views on issues of regional and global importance through the principles of tolerance, inclusiveness and the agenda focusing on development as guarantee to peace and stability in the region.

Mr Khan explained his vision of a peaceful neighbourhood and his government’s efforts to assist Afghanistan for restoring peace and stability.

The PM also briefed the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi about his efforts for peace and stability in the region and especially his desire for a dialogue with India for the settlement of all disputes, particularly the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2018