ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi yesterday said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia stand together as brothers.

Speaking to Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Pakistan Nauwaf bin Saeed Al-Malki here, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have historic close ties. The two discussed matters pertaining to the bilateral relationship and mutual interest, said an official statement.

Qureshi said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoyed a deep-rooted and historic relationship. “Sanctity of the Holy Mosques in the Kingdom is dear to every Muslim and part of their religious beliefs,” he said, adding, Pakistan would stand alongside Saudi Arabia for safeguarding its sovereignty.

The FM condemned the attacks of Houthi rebels in the Kingdom.

He said that a large number of Pakistanis have been living in Saudi Arabia from years and playing their part in the progress and prosperity of the Kingdom. 

“I hope that measures will be taken to safeguard the Pakistanis who had lost their jobs during the pandemic,” he added.

Qureshi also inquired about the health of the Saudi Arabian King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz.

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Nauwaf bin Saeed Al-Malki had earlier met Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Jawed Bajwa at the General Headquarters on August 11.

According to the military’s media wing, matters of mutual interest, regional security, defence cooperation and other issues came under discussion in the meeting.

The Saudi Arabian Ambassador also held separate meetings with the Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Speaker Punjab Assembly Pervez Elahi.

Pakistan reaffirmed the strength of its relations with Saudi Arabia after a diplomatic spat sparked by perceived inaction by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on the issue of Kashmir.

Qureshi had accused the OIC, a bloc of 57 Muslim-majority countries led by Saudi Arabia, of inaction over the Kashmir issue and threatened to hold a rival meeting that would bypass the group.

“I am once again respectfully telling the OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation,” Foreign Minister Qureshi had said in a television news appearance on August 4.

“If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris,” he remarked.

Pakistan has been trying to drum up international support following New Delhi’s decision to strip Occupied Kashmir of its special status in August 2019.

On August 17, General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Saudi Arabia for talks that according to a military spokesperson dealt with “military-to-military” matters.

Later, the Foreign Office issued a statement that was glowing in its praise of the OIC’s role on Kashmir and then Foreign Minister Qureshi appeared to walk back the comments.

“The OIC has passed many resolutions on Kashmir and there is no ambiguity in them. They are clear, they are assertive and they are in line with Pakistan’s position. On the issue of Kashmir, Saudi Arabia does not have any difference of opinion (with Pakistan),” he maintained.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have historically held very close ties, with the former dependent on the Gulf Kingdom’s oil supplies and financial largesse in times of economic strife.

Last year, the two countries’ trade relationship totalled more than $1.7bn, of which 74 per cent consisted of Pakistani oil imports from Saudi Arabia, as per Pakistani central bank data. In all, Pakistan imports roughly a quarter of its oil from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is also home to more than 2.5 million Pakistani expatriate workers, whose remittances form a major portion of Pakistan’s incoming foreign reserves every year.

In July, Pakistanis resident in Saudi Arabia sent home more than $821m, roughly 30 per cent of all remittances into the country, according to central bank data.

The two countries have also had close military ties, with Pakistan providing troops and training to the kingdom at its request.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian Ambassador Nawaf bin Saeed Al-Malkiy on Monday said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would resume Umrah flights as soon as the Covid-19 situation improved, the Interior Ministry said.

The Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Islamabad made these remarks in his meeting with Minister for Interior Brigadier (Retd) Ijaz Ahmad Shah at the Ministry of Interior.  

He called on the Minister to condole with him on the sad demise of latter’s two brothers, one after the other, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

They were Hassan Ahmad Shah and Tariq Ahmad Shah.

Both sides discussed issues of mutual interest, Covid situation and Umrah pilgrimage flights.

Shah asked about the current Covid-19 situation in the Kingdom and inquired if there were any plans of resumption of Umrah flights anytime soon.

The Ambassador replied that things were under control in Saudi Arabia as far as the virus is concerned and as soon as situation gets better, flights will resume.

The Ambassador prayed for the bereaved family said that it was great tragedy that Interior Minister lost his two brothers in a period of less than a month.

“It’s a huge loss and no one can imagine the pain you have endured,” he was quoted as stated by the ministry. The Minister for Interior thanked him for his kind words.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have strong brotherly relations not only at the governmental level but also at the public level, the Minister said ,adding, that “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are two bodies, one soul.”

The Ambassador and the Minister agreed upon the point that the two countries share a strong bond. The connection between people of two countries is also inseparable, the Minister said.

In his response, the Ambassador agreed with the Minister that people-to –people and government level contacts between the two countries were too strong to be ignored.

The meeting concluded with the promise that both ends will continue to work for further strengthening the bond between two countries.

Last month, Pakistan’s ties with the Kingdom had become strained after Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi unusually criticised Saudi Arabia for not supporting its stance on Kashmir.

He had warned Saudi Arabia-led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) stating to stop dilly-dallying on the convening of a meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers on Kashmir.