Islamabad/RIYADH - A high-level Pakistani delegation called on Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Wednesday and discussed with him the Yemen situation as well as matters of bilateral interest.

The delegation led by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif assured the Saudis that Pakistan will stand shoulder to shoulder with them in every critical time and will thwart any threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The PML-N government sent the delegation to the Kingdom apparently in a damage control bid rather than to discuss any military plans, sources said. The delegation reportedly met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad prior to its departure.

The prime minister and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif enjoy close personal relations with the Saudi royal family, and spent their years of exile from Pakistan (after 1999) in Jeddah.

During the Wednesday visit, Shahbaz was accompanied by Adviser to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Secretary Foreign Affairs Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry. Upon reaching Jeddah, the team was joined by Ambassador of Pakistan to Saudi Arabia Manzoorul Haq, Pakistani Counsel General in Jeddah Aftab Ahmed Khokhar and Defence Attaché Brigadier Tahir Gulzar Malik for the meeting with Saudi authorities.

During the meeting, issues pertaining to the existing relations between Pakistan and KSA, steps to further promote mutual ties and the matter pertaining to sending of Pakistani troops to Yemen on Saudi request in the wake of the prevailing security crisis there were discussed in detail.

The Pakistani delegation besides giving assurance of defending Saudi sovereignty, briefed the Saudi foreign minister about the joint resolution of the Parliament and policy statement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Saudi minister was told that the joint resolution was misread, leading to some misunderstandings.

It said that KSA is a time-tested friend of Pakistan which has always stood by it in critical times and Pakistan will also stand by it in the time of need. The Pakistani nation has high respect for the people and the government of KSA, the Pakistani team told the Saudis.

Saud al-Faisal told the Pakistani delegation that the Saudi government along with its allies crushed the Houthi rebels and now it was engaged in airstrikes against the rebellions, and the UN also has imposed arms ban on the rebels. Later, the Pakistani delegation left for Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Last month, Pakistan sent a high-level delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif to Riyadh to discuss the Saudi request to Pakistan for provision of troops as well as assess the situation of crisis in Yemen. Pakistan is a regional ally of Saudi Arabia but has yet to commit itself publicly to military support to Riyadh’s campaign in Yemen – a decision that appears to have upset its long-time ally.

After Prime Minister Sharif gave policy statement on Monday about Pakistan’s official position on the Yemen crisis, it was being expected that the government would send another high-level delegation to Saudi Arabia to wipe off the wrong message being drawn by the Saudi government as well as other Arab states about the resolution unanimously passed by Pakistan’s parliament on April 10 recommending the government to stay neutral in the Saudi-Yemen conflict.

It was also being speculated that the PM along with the army chief could visit Saudi Arabia. Sources were of the view that the PM’s move to send his younger brother to KSA was essentially aimed at clarifying the PML-N government’s position regarding the parliamentary resolution.

Nawaz Sharif on Monday tried to soothe the frayed nerves by reassuring the Saudis and the other Arab allies by reiterating commitment to security of Saudi Arabia, calling it a strategic ally, but did not commit to any military engagement. He in his speech upheld the Parliament’s resolution but also repeated the words of the resolution regarding the importance of Saudi Arabia as an ally.

The move to clarify Pakistan’s position came after a UAE minister criticised the parliamentary resolution last week and accusing Islamabad of siding with Iran. The minister also went on to issue a threat saying Pakistan’s stand would come at a high cost. However, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali hit back Sunday night in a strongly-worded statement, rebuking the UAE minister for issuing threats.