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Position on Israel unchanged: foreign office

Updated January 25, 2019

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Rumours about Pakistan recognising Israel have been doing the rounds since October last year. ─ File photo
Rumours about Pakistan recognising Israel have been doing the rounds since October last year. ─ File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday insisted that the government’s policy on ties with Israel remained unchanged.

FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal, while responding to multiple questions at the weekly media briefing, said: “Our position on Israel remains unchanged”.

Rumours about Pakistan recognising Israel have been doing the rounds since October last year, when the editor of Israeli newspaper Haaretz’s English edition, Ami Scharf, claimed in a tweet that a private jet possibly carrying Israeli officials travelled to Islamabad from Tel Aviv and remained on ground in the Pakistani capital for nearly 10 hours.

The claim was on that occasion strongly denied by the government and aviation regulator.

Later in November, a legislator from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Asma Hadeed reignited the controversy by proposing recognition of Israel in a speech in the National Assembly.

Indian response to Kartarpur termed childish

The issue once again surfaced after a Pakistani Jew thanked FO for allowing him to travel to Israel on a Pakistani passport. “Dear @ImranKhanPTI on 2-Jan Ministry of Foreign Affairs called to informing that I can visit Jerusalem Israel on Pakistani passport Im applying visa from Israeli embassy. Thank u Dr Faisal @ForeignOfficePk @DrMFaisal,” Fishel Benkhald tweeted.

Benkhald, who claims that his mother was Jewish, had earlier in 2017 got himself registered with the National Database and Registration Authority as a Jew after changing his religious status from that of a Muslim.

Benkhald was born as Faisal and he chose the Yiddish name Fishel after adopting Judaism.

Analysts believe that Arab countries’ growing secret ties with Israel could also force a rethink in Islamabad, whose own position on Israel is driven by the Palestinian dispute. They, however, doubt that the government would change the policy as long as the Palestinian dispute is not resolved.

Kartarpur response

The FO spokesman termed Indian response to Pakistan’s invitation for negotiations on Kartarpur Corridor agreement childish, but said Pakistan would respond to the Indian proposal in a mature way.

“India has regrettably behaved in a childish manner, as far as its response is concerned. We have seen similar reply from India in the past, in September 2018, in response to the letter from Prime Minster Imran Khan. I can assure you that our reply on the Indian proposal will be mature and well considered,” he said while responding to a question.

Dr Faisal has been designated as the focal person on Kartarpur Corridor by the Pakistan government.

After Islamabad shared a draft agreement on Kartarpur Corridor earlier this week and invited Indian officials for negotiations for its finalisation, New Delhi asked a Pakistani delegation to visit India for talks on the issue and suggested Feb 26 and March 7 as the two possible dates for the meeting.

Pakistan is working to open Kartarpur Corridor on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, in November this year. The groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor was performed in November last year.

Taliban talks

On the continuing US-Taliban talks in Doha, Dr Faisal said the dialogue was being facilitated by Pakistan and its representatives were present at the meeting.

The talks in Doha, which ended the impasse in the US-Taliban engagement for a political dialogue in Afghanistan caused by the insurgent group’s refusal to negotiate with the Afghan government, had started on Monday and were continuing on Thursday.

Read more: Mullah Baradar to lead Taliban in talks with US

“Negotiations are between the two parties for which Pakistan and Qatar are providing the necessary support and facilitating the talks,” he said and reiterated Pakistan’s position that a political solution through dialogue should be the way forward.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2019