JEDDAH - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Monday led a high level delegation to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a day-long visit in the backdrop of a deepening diplomatic rift in the Middle East.

The delegation included Army Chief Genral Qamar Javed Bajwa, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and some other top officials.

King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz received the premier and his delegation upon their arrival at the Palace, and latter hosted them Iftar dinner.

Earlier upon their arrival in Jeddah, Pakistani dignitaries were received by Governor of Makkah, Prince Fysal bin Abdul Aziz. Later around midnight, the delegation left for home.

There was no official word on the matters discussed by the officials of the two sides, but talks were likely to centre on deteriorating situation after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

The visit came days after a six-member Qatari delegation reportedly visited Islamabad, asking Pakistan to play a positive role in resolving the crisis engulfing the Middle East.

The Foreign Office had denied knowledge of any such visit and has also recently denied foreign media reports of 20,000 Pakistani troops being deployed in Qatar.

In its initial response to the Middle East crisis, Pakistan had stressed the need for unity in the Muslim world and urged the countries involved to engage in dialogue.

Last week, lawmakers at the National Assembly expressed “deep concern” over the diplomatic rift and passed a resolution urging all countries to “show restraint and resolve their differences through dialogue”.

Qatar hosted Taliban ‘at US request’

As neighbors have severed ties with Qatar accusing the tiny yet gas-rich Gulf state of backing terrorism, the country says that it had hosted the Taliban at the request of the government of the United States.

“The Gulf country hosted the Taliban by request of the US government and as part of Qatar’s open-door policy, to facilitate talks, to mediate and to bring peace,” said foreign minister’s special envoy on counterterrorism Mutlaq-Al-Qahtani.

Taliban opened an office in Qatar in 2013, but the Qatari government later shut it down. However, Taliban leaders are still said to be in Doha.

“Qatar was facilitating the talks between the Americans, the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan,” Qahtani told Al-Jazeera in Doha.

There was no immediate comment from the US. President Donald Trump had recently accused Qatar of “historically” funding “terrorism at a very high level” - an allegation Qatar denies. The US president has not provided any evidence for his accusation.

Al-Qahtani said, “Domestically, we have enacted proper laws, we have our national committees on terror financing and counterterrorism. We also have our preventive action plan.

“The country focuses on preventive diplomacy, trying to solve conflict, using our good offices, trying to bring people and civilizations with different faiths to mutual understanding, coexistence and tolerance, while also paying a lot of emphasis on unemployment, because we believe unemployment is one of the causes of terrorism or one of the root causes of violent extremism that could lead to terrorism.”

“The country focuses on preventive diplomacy, trying to solve conflict, using our good offices, trying to bring people and civilizations with different faiths to mutual understanding, coexistence and tolerance, while also paying a lot of emphasis on unemployment, because we believe unemployment is one of the causes of terrorism or one of the root causes of violent extremism that could lead to terrorism.”