Saudi FM to visit Pakistan to discuss strained bilateral ties

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Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan Al-Saud will lead a high-level delegation, including business leaders, in a visit to Pakistan next month in an effort to discuss recently strained relations, according to the Pakistani daily the Express Tribune.

The kingdom’s Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman will join the delegation to discuss the establishment of a Saudi oil refinery in Pakistan.

Al Saud will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in addition to meeting President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The visit comes amid tense relations between Riyadh and Islamabad since August when Qureshi criticised the Saudis over their lack of support on the issue of Kashmir over which Pakistan and rival India both claim in its entirety.

The Pakistani diplomat even stated that Islamabad would be “compelled” to “call a meeting of Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us”.

READ: Railway link from Turkey to Pakistan, through Iran to start in 2021

However, the Saudis who interpreted the statement as a veiled threat to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which is dominated by Riyadh, responded by requesting the earlier repayment of a $3 billion loan to Pakistan made two years ago and refused to renew deferred oil payments scheme which part of the loan agreement worth another $3.2 billion. Earlier this month, long-term ally China agreed to help Pakistan repay the debt.

Earlier this year Beijing also helped Pakistan repay $1 billion to the Saudis meaning Pakistan has thus far repaid $2 billion with $1 billion outstanding.

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Meanwhile, the Saudis have been developing ties with India despite its traditional ties with Pakistan, with a historic visit by the head of the Indian military to Riyadh earlier this month aimed at strengthening their bilateral ties, particularly in defence.

READ: Pakistan tells UAE it rejects normalisation with Israel

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