Saudi FM says Pakistan visit to deliver ‘significant benefits’ in upcoming months

Published April 16, 2024
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar address a joint press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — AFP
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar address a joint press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — AFP

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Tuesday said that his visit to Pakistan would deliver “significant benefits” in the upcoming months by realising the potential of untapped economic development.

The Saudi diplomat was addressing a joint press conference in Islamabad with Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar after a meeting between the two at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Saudi foreign minister is leading a high powered delegation on an official visit to Pakistan. The delegation had arrived in Pakistan on Monday.

The visit comes days after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Makkah, where the two sides agreed to expedite the first tranche of a $5 billion Saudi investment package for Pakistan. Overall, Saudi Arabia has committed to investing $25bn in Pakistan over the next five years, focusing on energy, IT, minerals, defence, and agriculture sectors under the Special Investment Facilitation Council.

Addressing the press conference, the Saudi diplomat said he had a “productive series” of meetings with Pakistani officials during which he had stressed the “importance and strategic depth” of bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as the kingdom’s commitment to deepening that relationship through new avenues.

“We are extremely impressed by the very proactive attitude that we saw in our meetings especially with the [Special] Investment [Facilitation] Council (SIFC) and a very strong business-focused approach on addressing challenges and opportunities and highlighting the work we can do together.

“I feel very confident that the results of this visit and the results of the work being done between the two respective teams with this attitude, with this approach of focus on results [and] overcoming hurdles will deliver significant benefits for both of our countries [and] will significantly accelerate the process of achieving those investments that we’re looking at together. I can say that there is significant opportunity to increase the level of investment that is already on the table,” the Saudi foreign minister said.

Terming the visit so far to be a “very positive” one, the Saudi diplomat said that the engagement so far laid the groundwork for “significant and important work to be done in the next few months in order to achieve all of the potential that exists”.

He said the kingdom was a strong believer in Pakistan’s untapped potential, particularly in terms of economic development which was “clear to everyone”.

“Working together, we will do what we can with our colleagues in the Government of Pakistan to make that happen,” he said and thanked Pakistani officials for their insights into the “excellent opportunities” regarding investment that could be potentially realised.

He said he and FM Dar had covered all areas of mutual concern in regional international affairs.

Meanwhile, Dar said the two had comprehensive discussions, covering various aspects over multifaceted cooperation. He appreciated the Saudi leadership’s “keen interest” in increasing investments in Pakistan, saying that the visit had provided the Saudi delegation with firsthand experience of the SIFC.

The foreign minister expressed his confidence that the briefings given to the Saudi side during the SIFC meeting had “successfully highlighted viable and attractive investment opportunities and options effectively capturing their interest”.

Dar said Pakistan was committed to providing Saudi investors full support, relevant safeguards and a conducive environment for investment.

International efforts for Gaza ceasefire ‘wholly insufficient’: Saudi FM

The Saudi foreign minister also addressed the situation in Gaza during the press conference, saying that international efforts so far towards a ceasefire were “wholly insufficient”.

“We are now well beyond 33,000 civilians killed. We are now actively discussing the potential for famine In Gaza,” he said, adding that people were starving to death because humanitarian assistance was not reaching them

“This is an unacceptable situation.

“It is a complete failure of the international system and systems of international law and government to live up to their responsibilities,” he said.

“There is no justification for the restriction of humanitarian aid in entering Gaza,” the Saudi FM said, adding that despite two UN Security Council resolutions, “we have not seen sufficient data [on aid] entering”.

“We have finally now begun to see a turnaround in the issue of aid. Unfortunately, that happened after six western aid workers were killed by Israel, but it didn’t happen after 33,000 Palestinians were killed,” he said while calling out the “double standards” of Western powers.

“It is our position that de-escalation must be everybody’s priority […] and we will do everything we can to push in that direction,” he said.

FM Dar said that Pakistan was also “deeply concerned” about Gaza, adding that the issue was discussed bilaterally between the foreign minister.

He said that the world’s consciousness must wake up. Dar said that the return of the displaced Palestinians must take place and there should be accountability for the crimes committed

“We believe the perpetual solution to this issue will be when Palestinian state is established according to the 1964 resolution,” FM Dar said.

Saudi FM attends SIFC meeting

Earlier, the Saudi diplomat attended the Saudi Arabia-Pakistan Investment Conference held by the SIFC, according to a press release from the Foreign Office (FO).

It added that FM Dar highlighted the significance of enhanced bilateral strategic and economic partnership and the crucial role of Saudi investments in nurturing the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

He also explained how Pakistan aimed to streamline investment processes and ensure rapid decision-making through the SIFC, fostering a flourishing investment-friendly environment in the country. Dar showcased the abundant opportunities in agriculture, information technology and mining sectors, inviting Saudi investors to engage in mutually beneficial partnerships.

FM Dar expressed confidence in the strengthened bonds between the two countries, envisioning significant economic growth and lasting benefits. He concluded with a call for constructive engagement and collaboration towards mutual prosperity and development.

The FO said SIFC officials gave comprehensive briefings encompassing the potential and investment opportunities in key sectors of Pakistan’s economy. “Both sides held exhaustive deliberative sessions at functional level to crystallise investment opportunities in Pakistan,” the FO added.

“The Saudi side expressed great significance and interest in the improving investment ecosystem in Pakistan, appreciated SIFC’s role in amicable resolution of kingdom’s legacy investment/business related issues, and showed keen interest to invest in key sectors of Pakistan. The Pakistan side assured the Saudi side of maximum support and facilitation in fast-tracking the kingdom’s prospective multibillion dollars investments in Pakistan.

“The two sides also finalised a bilateral implementation mechanism to closely coordinate and execute investment related matters at the functional level to turn the sovereign commitments into tangible economic outcomes,” the FO said.

Need to work together to expedite Saudi investments: PM Shehbaz

Earlier today, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said both Islamabad and Riyadh needed to work closely to expedite the first phase of Saudi investments in Pakistan under the new arrangement.

He made the remarks while meeting the Saudi foreign minister.

An official handout released by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) today following the meeting with the Saudi delegation said the prime minister expressed his deep appreciation for the leadership of the kingdom and conveyed his sincerest wishes to King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The prime minister underscored the significance accorded by Pakistan to its longstanding fraternal, economic and strategic relations with Saudi Arabia. He said both countries had always stood together at all times,” the statement said.

He also recalled his “warm and productive” meeting with the crown prince earlier this month, saying that the visit of the Saudi delegation was a “manifestation of the strong commitment of both countries to the strengthening of bilateral relations focused on mutually beneficial economic cooperation”.

“In this regard, the prime minister said that both sides needed to work closely to expedite the first phase of Saudi investments in Pakistan under the new arrangement,” the statement said.

PM Shehbaz also informed the Saudi delegation about the SIFC and its initiatives to promote investment in Pakistan.

“He also highlighted the key role of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir and the cooperation of all institutions for the promotion of investment in the country through SIFC,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Saudi foreign minister expressed gratitude at the warm welcome given to the delegation and highlighted that the kingdom attached high importance to its strong and close ties with Pakistan.

“The foreign minister also conveyed the kingdom’s commitment to an enhanced strategic and economic partnership with Pakistan,” it said.

“The escalating situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories was also discussed,” the statement added.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia reiterate resolve to boost economic ties

The Saudi delegation also met with President Asif Ali Zardari at the Aiwan-i-Sadr. In a statement posted on X, the President’s House said: “Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have reiterated their resolve to build a strong partnership and further promote economic cooperation for the mutual benefit of the two brotherly countries.”

Zardari acknowledged that the two countries enjoyed a long-standing relationship, with Pakistan looking to transform existing ties into a long-term strategic and economic partnership.

He noted that the prosperity of the Islamic world was linked to the progress of Saudi Arabia. The president also lauded the visionary leadership of the crown prince and the progress being made under Vision 2030 economic diversification plan.

The president thanked Saudi Arabia for its support to Pakistan in difficult times, and conveyed that Pakistan has the highest regard for King Salman and would continue to stand with the kingdom.

The Saudi FM returned president Zardari’s sentiments, noting that KSA considered its relations with Pakistan critical and was “committed to building a strong partnership” with Islamabad.

Furthermore, he highlighted that both countries enjoyed strong bonds and had helped each other for decades. The Saudi FM appreciated the contributions of the Pakistani diaspora in the development of the kingdom.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed regional dynamics and recent developments in the Middle East and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and end to the atrocities in Gaza.

Both sides also exchanged views on issues of bilateral importance and the challenges being faced by the Muslim Ummah, the statement said.

Meeting with COAS

The Saudi foreign minister also met Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir (COAS), according to a statement from the Inter Services Public Relations.

Their discussion centred on mutual interests and policies to further bolster bilateral cooperation across various sectors.

The Saudi diplomat underscored the enduring and strategic nature of the relationship between the two nations, emphasising the exploration of multiple avenues for the continued reinforcement of bilateral ties.

“COAS conveyed appreciation for the delegation’s visit, affirming traditional bond of fraternity between Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He underscored the reverence and affection that the people of Pakistan hold for their Saudi brethren.

“COAS reiterated full support for the delegation and conveyed his best wishes for mutually beneficial outcomes from the interaction for both states,” the ISPR said.

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