No strings attached with Saudi support: FM

ISLAMABAD – Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Wednesday dispelled the impression that there were any strings attached with the Saudi financial support worth billions of dollars for Pakistan.

Speaking to journalists here at the foreign office, Qureshi said Saudi Arabia had helped Pakistan as a friend and had not put any conditions.

Asked if Saudi Arabia wanted a more effective role of Pakistan in the Islamic Military Alliance to quell the Hauthis in return for its financial aid, the Foreign Minister said: “Absolutely no. There is no condition. They have not demanded anything. The help is totally on the basis of friendship.”

He said Saudi Arabia had provided Pakistan a helping hand which they had denied to the previous governments. “This (such cooperation) was offered when Pakistan conducted the nuclear tests in 1998. Later the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) and the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz) tried to get such packages but were denied. Those criticising us had even lived there for years (referring to former premier Nawaz Sharif’s in exile during Pervez Musharraf’s military rule),” he added.

He said Pakistan may still go to the International Monetary Fund programme but with reduced pressure. “If we are seeking lesser money, their conditions would be soft but with bigger loans, we can expect tough conditions,” the minister elaborated.

Qureshi said the ties with the United States were improving but there were still differences on many issues. “They have their own views on Afghanistan. We have told them if Washington can blame us for the border infiltrations, why can’t it tell Kabul to check their side,” he asserted.

The minister said his interaction was brief with US President Donald Trump but still he delivered the message. “I told him that we want to rebuild the ties. We are in agreement that peace in Afghan is vital for peace in the region,” he maintained.

Qureshi clarified that he had not held any bilateral meeting with Trump but it was only a brief interaction at a reception hosted by the US President.

The foreign minister said Pakistan had sought help from the US for Pak-India talks which was rejected by New Delhi.

“We are not dying for talks with India but ultimately, we have to hold a dialogue for peace. This is the only way out. Even for Afghanistan, this rule applies,” he remarked.

He said India had itself proposed a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly but later changed their mind.

“We still believe that after elections in India, they will come back on the talks table,” he said.

Questioned about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he said: “Who doesn’t condemn it. This is a sad incident.”

To another question, he said when Prime Minister Imran Khan suggested talks with the militants in Afghanistan, he was dubbed as ‘Taliban Khan,’ “Now what should we call those who are contacting the Taliban in Qatar.”

On ties with Iran and the future of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, he said: “Iran is not against Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia. There are sanctions on Iran which is the cause of delay in the implementation of the IP gas pipeline project.”

About relations with Bangladesh, he said Pakistan advocated good ties with all neighbours, but the ruling Awami League in Bangladesh has a negative attitude towards Pakistan.

Asked what would be PM Khan’s agenda for the upcoming visit to China, he said: “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not the only connection between Pakistan and China. Our relations have a past. CPEC is one of the several links in this relationship,” he said.

Qureshi said the efficient political appointees who were serving in different countries as ambassadors could continue. “We are considering their cases. If someone is performing well, we will not sack him only for being a political appointee. Those who are violating rules will be punished. We will not hide their wrongs,” he contended.

The FM also briefed the journalists about his meetings with various world leaders during the last two months. Qureshi said as the minister, he was trying to build the country’s image.

Earlier in the day, Qureshi urged the United Nations to play its due role in resolving the decades old Kashmir dispute as per its own resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Addressing a function at the foreign office in Islamabad in connection with the United Nations Day, the minister asked the world body to send a commission of inquiry to probe “human rights abuses in Kashmir by the Indian forces as documented in the UN Human Rights Commission’s report.”

He said on its part, Pakistan was ready to partner any global effort to promote peace and stability in the region and the world at large.

Qureshi said that Pakistan had played a pivotal role in the UN peacekeeping missions across the world, as it believes in peace all over the world. He said 156 Pakistani peacekeepers have sacrificed their lives to achieve this goal.

In his remarks, UN Resident Coordinator to Pakistan Neil Buhne said the UN has also issued its report on human rights violations in Kashmir.

The UN Representative said the world body was ready to play its role in the resolution of Kashmir dispute provided India and Pakistan agree to it.

Meanwhile, Secretary General of D-8 Dato Ku Jaafar Ku Shaari held a meeting with Foreign Minister Qureshi here yesterday. He discussed matters pertaining to promoting trade and economic relations amongst the organisation’s member countries.

Qureshi said that promoting trade relations amongst the member countries of the D-8 is need of the hour, said an official statement.

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