ISLAMABAD -  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has told Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz that Pakistan was committed to the Kingdom’s territorial integrity and safety of the two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madina, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Sharif visited Saudi Arabia on June 12 in a bid to defuse diplomatic tension in the Gulf after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting terror networks.

Qatar denied the allegations and appealed for talks.

The prime minister, during his meeting with the Saudi King, hoped that the current impasse in the Gulf will be resolved soon in the best interest of the Muslim-majority nations, the foreign ministry statement said.

Last week, Pakistan said it had not deployed troops in Qatar. Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said that the reports in this regard “appear to be part of a malicious campaign aimed at creating misunderstanding between Pakistan and brotherly Muslim countries in the Gulf.”

Earlier reports said that Pakistan had decided to send military contingent to Qatar following Turkey who sent troops to the state.

There were claims that Pakistan could send up to 20,000 soldiers to Qatar.

Prime Minister Sharif has personal ties with the royal families of both the Saudi Arabia and Qatar prompting him to jump in for peace.

Riyadh too has been very kind to Sharif in the past and the present.

Several years ago, Riyadh had saved Sharif’s life when military ruler Pervez Musharraf toppled his government in a coup.

Saudi Arabia has always provided financial help to Pakistan – especially when Sharif is in power.

Tensions between Arab countries are always worrisome for Pakistan but the Saudi-Qatar row has come at even a worst time when Pakistan is engaged in friction with India, Afghanistan and Iran.

Pakistan has tried to defuse tension with Iran but the row with India and Afghanistan seems unending.

Pakistan’s key supporter China is also trying to settle the Pak-Afghan conflict.

The foreign ministry statement said that Prime Minister Sharif expressed solidarity with the Kingdom and the people of Saudi Arabia.

“The prime minister said that the kingdom had a very special place in the hearts of Pakistanis and that the Muslim world looked up to the king as the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” it said.

King Salman bin Abdul Aziz said that the fight against extremism and terrorism was in the interest of all Muslims, the statement said.

He also appreciated the exceptional success of Pakistan against extremism and terrorism, despite challenging situation and environment.

The Saudi king reiterated strong commitment and the support of the kingdom for all issues of interest for Pakistan, including matters of its national security, added the statement.

“King Salman thanked the prime minister for his visit and recalled the special nature of relationship between the kingdom and Pakistan ever since its independence,” it said. The prime minister was accompanied by army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz during his day-long trip.

Even after Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Qatar Pakistan declared it will not follow the close ally.

Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria had said Pakistan would continue diplomatic ties with Qatar.

“For now, there is no change for Qatar. We will announce if there is any development on this issue,” he said.

Former ambassador BA Malik said that Pakistan could play a better role as a mediator between the two Muslim-majority countries.

“We cannot become a party. Both sides are friendly to Pakistan. We need to work for peace and hopefully there will be good results,” he said.

Malik said that the visit of PM Sharif and General Bajwa should help end the Saudi-Qatar tension and bring the two sides to the dialogue table.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 14-Jun-2017 here.