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Khar invited by Saudi minister for consultations

December 20, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Dec 19: Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar received on Wednesday a sudden ‘invitation’ from Riyadh for ‘consultations’.

The invitation delivered by Saudi Ambassador Abdul Aziz bin Ibrahim bin Salih Al-Ghadeer on behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud had signs of urgency as it asked Ms Khar to visit Riyadh “at her earliest convenience”.

Ms Khar accepted the invitation.

Although a statement issued by the Foreign Office did not mention the date of her visit, it is understood that she would be proceeding to Saudi Arabia soon.

“She asked the ambassador to convey her best wishes to the Saudi Foreign Minister, adding that she was eagerly looking forward to her meeting with His Royal Highness,” the FM was quoted by the FO statement as having told the Saudi envoy.

A source said the Saudi foreign minister wanted to have “consultations with Ms Khar” on developments in the region, but did not specify the issues likely to be taken up.

The sudden invitation came in the wake of rapidly changing situation in Syria particularly after Iran announced over the weekend its peace plan for the Syrian crisis. Saudis are said to be eyeing an opportunity in Tehran’s six-point plan.

The step-by-step plan announced by Iran envisaging elections in Syria ultimately leading to change in leadership is being interpreted in Riyadh as indication of a softening of Iran’s position on Syria.

Russia, like Iran, too has been giving mixed signals over Syria.

Saudis at the same time are sitting uneasy over the progress on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, the challenging project which Iran has agreed to fund.

Afghanistan has always been another area of key interest to Saudi Arabia. Pakistan last month created stir by giving a major boost to the reconciliation process after setting free a batch of Taliban detainees so that they could join peace talks. But, recent suicide attack on the chief of Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS), Asadullah Khalid, which President Hamid Karzai alleged originated from Pakistan, has led to renewal of animosity.

Although President Zardari and his counterpart Hamid Karzai met in Istanbul for a trilateral meeting with Turkey on Dec 11-12, the issue is far from having been fully addressed.