Saudi Arabia denies pressurising Pakistan to withdraw from Malaysia summit

Published December 21, 2019
After his visit to Saudi Arabia last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to stay away from the Kuala Lumpur summit. — PM Office/File
After his visit to Saudi Arabia last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to stay away from the Kuala Lumpur summit. — PM Office/File

The Saudi embassy in Islamabad on Saturday denied "information and fake news" broadcast by some media outlets that Saudi Arabia "pressurised and threatened" Pakistan to refrain from participating in the Kuala Lumpur Summit.

The statement comes a day after Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah quoted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying Pakistan had decided to stay away from the recently concluded summit because of Saudi Arabia's threats of economic sanctions.

A press release issued by the Saudi embassy stated: "The embassy affirms that the relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Pakistan are superior to the language of threat.

"The brotherly relations between the countries are long-standing and strategic based on trust, understanding and mutual respect, and the two countries enjoy a consensus of views on most regional and international issues, especially the issues of the Islamic nation."

The statement added that Saudi Arabia has always "stood with Pakistan during difficult times based on fraternal relations".

"We strive always to stand with Pakistan to be a successful and stable country," the embassy added.

The meeting in Kuala Lumpur was shunned by Saudi Arabia and criticised for allegedly undermining the bigger Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Some analysts also suspected that Saudi Arabia's reluctance to attend stemmed from fear of being diplomatically isolated by regional rivals Iran, Qatar and Turkey, all of whom were attending the summit.

Saudi state news agency SPA also reported that on a call with Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad, Saudi King Salman reaffirmed that such issues should be discussed through the OIC.

According to Daily Sabah, Erdogan, while speaking to Turkish media representatives, said that it was not the first time that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had put pressure on a country for doing or not doing certain things.

“Unfortunately, we see that Saudi Arabia pressures Pakistan. Now, there are promises that the country has given to Pakistan regarding the central bank. However, more than that, there are four million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia. They [threaten by saying that they] would send [Pakistanis] back and re-employ Bangladeshis instead,” Erdogan was quoted as saying. He added that the kingdom has also threatened to withdraw money it had deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan.

According to Erdogan, Pakistan had to comply with the Saudi wishes "due to its economic difficulties".

While not directly addressing the Turkish president's statement, the Foreign Office in response to questions from the media said that Pakistan did not participate in the Kuala Lumpur summit because "time and efforts were needed to address the concerns of major Muslim countries regarding possible division in the Ummah".

"Pakistan will continue to work for the unity and solidarity of the Ummah, which is indispensable for effectively addressing the challenges faced by the Muslim world," the FO spokesperson said in a brief statement.

'No representation from Pakistan at summit'

Pakistan was one of the first countries with which Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir had shared his plans for holding the summit when he met Prime Minister Imran along with Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York in September.

Later, Imran Khan formally conveyed his acceptance of the invitation for attending the summit when Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia Marzuki Bin Haji Yahya called on him in Islamabad on November 29.

Last week, however, reports of Prime Minister Imran cancelling his trip to Malaysia started making rounds. After his visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, the premier decided to stay away from the Kuala Lumpur summit. According to reports, he withdrew due to pressure exerted by the kingdom, which had extended a helping hand to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government during its early days to stave off an economic crisis.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had on Tuesday confirmed that there would be no representation from Pakistan at the summit of some 20 Muslim countries, which started in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Qureshi confirmed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had concerns about the summit, saying the two countries were worried that the event could cause “division in Ummah” and lead to setting up of an organisation parallel to the existing Saudi-dominated OIC.

In view of the reservations about the summit, Qureshi said, it was decided that Pakistan would seek to bridge the gap between Riyadh and Kuala Lumpur and if that did not work there would be no participation in the summit.

Prime Minister Imran’s trip to the kingdom was aimed at bringing Saudi Arabia and Malaysia closer and not for getting permission to attend the summit, the minister said at the time.

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