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Monday May 27, 2024

Saudi FM-led delegation arrives in Pakistan today

The Saudi delegation would visit Pakistan from April 15 to 16

By News Desk
April 15, 2024
A view of Saudi Arabia and Pakistani national flags placed in front of  PM Secretariat in Islamabad ahead of  Saudi delegations visit led by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan. — Online/File
A view of Saudi Arabia and Pakistani national flags placed in front of  PM Secretariat in Islamabad ahead of  Saudi delegation's visit led by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan. — Online/File

ISLAMABAD: A high-level delegation of Saudi Arabia led by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah will arrive in Pakistan on a two-day official visit today (Monday).

The development came after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, during a recent meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, reaffirmed that Riyadh would never leave Islamabad alone.

The Saudi delegation would visit Pakistan from April 15 to 16. The visit is aimed at lending a positive impetus to enhanced bilateral cooperation and mutually rewarding economic partnership.

The delegation consists of Saudi Minister of Water and Agriculture Engineer Abdul Rahman Abdul Mohsen Al-Fadley, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Ibrahim Al-Khorayef, Deputy Minister of Investment Badr Al-Badr, Head of Saudi Special Committee Mohammad Mazyed Al Towaijri, and senior officials from Ministry of Energy and Saudi Fund for General Investments.

In an official statement, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said that the visit takes place essentially to expedite follow up on the understanding reached between PM Shehbaz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during their recent meeting in Makkah to enhance bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries.

During their stay in Pakistan, the Saudi delegation is expected to hold meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, PM Shehbaz, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir and others.

The almost 100-member delegation of Saudi Arabia, headed by its Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, is due in Pakistan to finalise the roadmap for investment of $5 billion in the first phase in various sectors of economy, including investment in Reko Diq, green refinery, Diamer-Bhasha Dam, agriculture and KP tourism zone.

Officials from both sides would finalise the agreements for investment to be signed during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who is likely to visit Pakistan in the first or second week of May. “The investment of $1 billion from Saudi Arabia is likely in Reko Diq mining,” senior officials of the energy ministry told The News.

Under the revised agreement, 50 percent of shares are held by Canadian company Barrick Gold Corporation whereas Antofagasta of Chile has exited the project in return for $900m deposited by three entities of the federal government – Oil & Gas Development Company Limited, Pakistan Petroleum Limited and Government Holdings Private Limited. These entities hold a 25 percent share in the project whereas the remaining shares are owned by Balochistan. Of them, 15 percent are owned by Balochistan province on a fully funded basis and 10 percent on a free carried basis. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on April 8, 2024 affirmed their commitment to expediting the first wave of investment package of $5 billion, which was discussed previously with Jeddah’s commitment to support Pakistan economically after the meeting of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif with the Saudi Crown Prince in Riyadh.

The Saudi delegation would also comprise Saudi ministers for Investment and Industries and top businessmen representing various sectors of economy. Last year, caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar announced that Saudi Arabia would invest up to $25 billion in Pakistan over the next two to five years. Apart from Reko Diq, Pakistan wants Saudi Arabia to invest in Diamer-Bhasha Dam, much touted Green Refinery, agriculture and the KP tourism zone. The RLNG power plants installed by the federal government in Punjab may also be pitched before Saudi officials for privatisation purposes.

In the near past, Pakistan initiated diplomatic endeavours to effectively persuade the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Sinopec -- one of the biggest Chinese companies known for installing refineries -- to help materialize the dream of setting up $10 billion state-of-the-art and deep conversion refinery with the capacity to refine crude oil of 300,000 barrels per day (BPD). “Pakistan’s ambassador in Saudi Arabia had been asked to approach the authorities in KSA to facilitate in taking the project forward. The Foreign Office has also been directed to assist in pursuing the project through diplomatic channels, particularly engaging the Sinopec in China to become a part of the mega project. Country’s caretaker energy minister Muhammad Ali, talking to The News on November 16, 2023, had disclosed that Saudi Aramco has shown interest in building a crude-to-chemical petrochemical complex in Pakistan instead of a green refinery, adding that Saudi Arabia had started keeping itself away from the refinery business and investment globally.