ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia and Pakistan on Tuesday vowed to take bilateral ties to new heights under a strategic direction set by the top leadership of the two countries in May this year.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud, while speaking at a press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi following delegation-level talks between the two sides, expressed Riyadh’s keen desire to bolster relationship with Islamabad and said the kingdom was looking to expand the dimensions of relationship with Pakistan through the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SP-SCC).
The SP-SCC, co-chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Prime Minister Imran Khan, was established after the two leaders signed an agreement in this regard in May when the latter was on a three-day official visit to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi foreign minister said he is in Pakistan “to follow up on the important visit of Prime Minister [Imran Khan] to Saudi Arabia in May”.
He expressed the hope that the council would turn out to be a “milestone in taking the bilateral relationship to new levels, institutionalising it and exploring all the opportunities that it has to offer”.
Imran raises issue of travel restrictions with Saudi foreign minister
Prince Faisal said that while Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had worked in multiple areas in the past as well he believed that the SP-SCC would be a “more effective tool” to enhance bilateral cooperation. He emphasised the importance of enhancing economic ties, saying it had been the main focus of his discussion with Mr Qureshi.
“We focused very much on the economic side of the relationship and on opportunities to expand it beyond the traditional areas of investment,” he said, stressing the need for expanding bilateral coordination in the areas of technology and environment.
The Saudi minister said security and stability were the key to economic prosperity and, therefore, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had agreed to work together on ensuring stability in each other’s regions. “We have agreed to work [together] on regional issues, whether it’s Kashmir, Palestine or Yemen. We will work together to ensure stability in both our regions.”
Prince Faisal said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had a relationship that “goes back many decades and is founded in brotherhood”. “We have supported each other in many areas and will continue to do so,” he said, adding that his government valued the contribution of the Pakistani community to Saudi Arabia’s economy and was working to expand opportunities for it in the kingdom.
Prince Faisal lauded Pakistan for its efforts against the coronavirus pandemic and said the two countries would work on easing the challenges that people face.
Speaking on the occasion, FM Qureshi termed the ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia historic and said both countries were “very comfortable” with the way things were moving on the bilateral front.
“What we are focused now on is improving our economic linkages through enhancement of bilateral trade and promotion of investments,” he said, adding that both countries aimed to achieve this through the establishment and activation of a special body — the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Consultative Council.
FM Qureshi said he discussed with his Saudi counterpart on how the council would be structured and what should be their work plan for the purpose. “We have decided that there will be a focal person at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here and in Saudi Arabia to oversee the progress on bilateral front,” he said, adding that it would let them look at the bilateral relations in an “institutionalised way”.
Mr Qureshi identified Vision 2030 — a national transformation plan introduced by the Saudi government — as an area in which Pakistan could contribute. “Our skilled and semi-skilled professionals can make contributions to Vision 2030.”
In this connection, he also highlighted the importance of building cultural ties through cultural diplomacy.
Mr Qureshi thanked Prince Faisal and the Saudi government for their “unwavering support” to Pakistan on matters relating to the Financial Action Task Force and on the issue of occupied Kashmir. “They have shown clarity and consistency in supporting Pakistan,” he noted.
Moreover, he said, he had a discussion on the evolving situation in Afghanistan with Prince Faisal and their approach on the matter was same. He added that Pakistani and Saudi leaderships had given him and his counterpart the task of activating the SP-SCC.
Prince Faisal, accompanied by a delegation of senior officials of the Saudi government, reached Islamabad Tuesday morning.
Hours before the visit, the Foreign Office spokesman tweeted: “Senior high-level delegations held talks on Saudi-Pakistan relations, in run-up to visit of HH Prince @FaisalbinFarhan. Key focus was on Saudi-Pak Supreme Coordination Council, highest level platform to provide strategic direction to bilateral ties. Saudi side was led by Amb Eid Al-Thaqafi.”
Meeting with PM
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal also called on Prime Minister Imran Khan, who fondly recalled his visit to the kingdom in May this year.
In line with the decisions taken on the occasion, the prime minister highlighted the assiduous follow-up and stressed the need for exploring new avenues of cooperation to further deepen bilateral relations in diverse fields.
PM Khan particularly emphasised the need for strengthening the economic dimension of the relationship and taking steps for realising the vast possibilities in trade, investment and energy fields.
He appreciated the work related to activation of the SP-SCC, which is the highest-level platform designed to impart strategic direction to the development of Pakistan-Saudi relations.
Noting the difficulties being faced by Pakistani nationals due to Covid-related travel restrictions, the prime minister underlined the importance of taking timely measures for facilitation of their return to Saudi Arabia.
Published in Dawn, July 28th , 2021