Sunday July 21, 2024

Caretaker PM to reach Saudi Arabia tomorrow: FO

Pakistan not considering recognition of state of Israel in haste, Islamabad’s policy towards Tel Aviv has not been reviewed in recent past

By Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
September 25, 2023
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar while addressing UNGA 78 in New Yotk in this picture released on September 22, 2023. — X/@PakPMO
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar while addressing UNGA 78 in New Yotk in this picture released on September 22, 2023. — X/@PakPMO

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar will reach Saudi Arabia on Tuesday (tomorrow) for Umrah.

It is yet to be ascertained if the caretaker PM would get a chance to have a meeting with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz or Prime Minister Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman during his brief stay in the Kingdom. Such a meeting could be possible either in the coastal city Jeddah or capital Riyadh.

Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani would be returning from New York mid-week.

The visit of the United Nations and outcome of the high echelon meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly summit would be evaluated with other stakeholders for formulation of future strategy later this week, sources said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is not considering recognition of the state of Israel in haste, and Islamabad’s policy towards Tel Aviv has not been reviewed in the recent past.

The Foreign Office has made it clear that no decision has yet been taken that Pakistan would be among the 6-7 Muslim countries that would reportedly accord recognition to Israel in the wake of acceptance of Jewish state by Saudi Arabia, as hinted by the Israeli foreign minister in an interview with Israel’s Kan News on Friday.

Foreign Office spokesperson Ms Mumtaz Zehra Baloch, while responding to a query by this scribe on Sunday, said she had no information of any development on the issue as far as Pakistan was concerned.

Diplomatic sources told The News on Sunday Pakistan was carefully studying the developments pertaining to any tangible improvement in ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

It is understood that the Palestinian issue and Israel have always been part of consultations between Islamabad and Riyadh. According to sources, the caretaker administration would not be in a position to make a decision on the question of recognition of Israel. Pakistan does not enjoy any formal relations with Israel, but senior diplomats have been indicating that the two countries do have “invisible line of communications” on the need basis.

It would be pertinent to note that Israel had extended congratulations to Saudi Arabia on its 93rd National Day that was celebrated on Saturday. “We offer our sincere congratulations and blessings to the king, government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the occasion of the 93rd national day,” the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement. “May God bring you good and blessings... with our wishes that an atmosphere of peace, cooperation and good neighbourlines will prevail,” it added in the statement.

A day earlier Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while addressing UN General Assembly, said: “We are at the cusp of... an historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia.” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had also told Fox News that the two counties were getting “closer” to normalising ties. Several Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, normalised their relations with Israel in 2020 under the so-called Abraham Accords.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had said that his country was moving steadily closer to normalising relations with Israel, following similar moves from other Gulf countries, and amid a big push by the United States for a Saudi-Israeli deal. “Every day, we get closer,” the crown prince told the US broadcaster Fox News, according to excerpts of an interview scheduled to air later on Wednesday.

The interview with the crown prince, widely known as MBS, came as US President Joe Biden’s administration presses ahead with an effort to broker historic ties between the two countries and its top Middle East allies, a development that could reshape the geopolitics of the Middle East.

The normalisation talks are the centrepiece of complex negotiations, which also include possible Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, as well as discussions of US security guarantees and civilian nuclear help that Riyadh has sought. MBS told Fox’s Special Report programme that the Palestinian issue was “very important” to Riyadh. “We need to solve that part,” he said when asked what it would take to get a normalisation agreement. “We got to see where we go. We hope that will reach a place, that it will ease the life of the Palestinians, get Israel as a player in the Middle East,” he said, speaking in English. The US officials have privately touted the potential benefits of a regional mega-deal, which would be a foreign policy win as Biden seeks re-election in November 2024.

MBS also said that if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would “have to get one”. Saudi Arabia, along with Israel, has long been an adversary of Iran, but relations have improved since Riyadh and Tehran agreed to restore diplomatic relations in March. The broadcast of the crown prince’s comments will follow a meeting between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, in which they pledged to work together towards Israeli-Saudi normalisation. Both leaders also said Iran could not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

The interview with Fox’s anchor, Bret Baier, was the first by MBS on US TV since 2019. After a week of lead-up interviews with various Saudi government and business leaders, Baier told Fox that he had seen the country undergo “tectonic changes at a scale and pace and degree that no country in modern times has seen”. “These changes have been positive,” he added. On the other hand, Iran has called Saudi-Israeli relations ‘back-stab’ to Palestinians.