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January 11, 2016

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Pakistan to fully defend Saudi territorial integrity

Pakistan to fully defend Saudi territorial integrity

Civil, military leaders extend assurance to Kingdom’s defence minister; Prince Salman meets PM, COAS; supports Pakistan’s position on all issues; both countries agree to boost cooperation in defence, anti-terror fight, trade, investment and manpower

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will not tolerate any threat to territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia and holy places and will defend it forcefully.

Highly-placed sources told The News that the standpoint of Pakistan has been conveyed to the visiting Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and deputy Prime Minister Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who had meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif and other high-ups in Islamabad and Rawalpindi on Sunday. Pakistan also emphasised the need to minimise the tension in the area so that the region could concentrate on dealing with potential threats emanating from extremism and forces of terror.

The prince, who is also the defence minister of his country, has reaffirmed Saudi Arabia's full support to Pakistan’s position on all matters in the course of his meeting with General Raheel Sharif. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured the Saudi prince that the people of Pakistan would always stand with the people of Saudi Arabia, against any threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the kingdom. The prime minister welcomed the Saudi initiative to establish a coalition of like-minded Islamic countries to counter terrorism and militancy and informed Muhammad bin Salman that Pakistan supports the efforts to counter terrorism and extremism.

The prince, who undertook daylong flying but working trip to Islamabad, was received by Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Adviser to the Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and other senior officials on arrival at the Nur Khan airbase and he was seen off by the minister and senior officials later in the evening.

He stayed here during his maiden visit in his present capacity less than five hours. The Saudi dignitary who conveyed the message of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Al Saud to the host leadership here has termed his visit to Pakistan as ‘useful and productive’. The meetings took place in a pleasant atmosphere and the prince, who was accorded high-profile protocol on arrival during stay and at departure, was cheerful during the discussions.

Interestingly, formal talks at the delegation level were not held with the defence minister during his stay in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The defencetalks were confined to the meeting of the Saudi defence minister and his delegation with the army chief General Raheel and senior officers at the GHQ, Rawalpindi.

The Prime Minister House stated in its release that Prince Salman called on the prime minister on Sunday evening. Nawaz Sharif welcomed the deputy crown prince and stated that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Custodian of the Holy Mosques are held in high esteem by the people of Pakistan. He affirmed that the people of Pakistan are bonded with the people of KSA through historical, cultural and Islamic ties of brotherhood.

The two leaders agreed to further strengthen the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and deepen the cooperation in all fields, including defence security, fight against terrorism, trade and investment and manpower requirements of the kingdom.

Prince Salman appreciated the valiant efforts waged by the security and law enforcement authorities to root out terrorism from Pakistan, particularly through the military campaign Zarb-e-Azb. He was briefed on the progress in implementing the National Action Plan to eliminate extremism and terrorism.

It was agreed that the two countries would cooperate in developing an effective counter narrative to defeat the extremist mindset. The visit provided a welcome opportunity to both sides to reaffirm their shared resolve to deepen the bilateral cooperation and work together to address the challenge of terrorism which is a common enemy for both.

The prime minister recalled that Pakistan has historically pursued the policy of promoting brotherhood among member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Pakistan has always expressed its readiness to offer its good offices to brotherly Muslim countries, for resolution of their differences through peaceful dialogue and reconciliation.

The Inter-Services Public Relations in its release said that the army chief General Raheel Sharif has reasserted that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a strong response from Pakistan. Talking to Saudi Defence Minister Prince Muhammad bin Salman in Rawalpindi on Sunday evening, General Raheel said that Pakistan holds its defence ties with Saudi Arabia in highest esteem. He said Pakistan enjoys close and brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries and attaches great importance to their security. The Saudi defence minister said the kingdom attaches great importance to Pakistan and its armed forces and appreciates their successes in the fight against terrorism and efforts for regional stability. He also reaffirmed Saudi Arabia's full support to Pakistan’s position on all matters. Matters related to regional security and defence cooperation came under discussion during the meeting.

The deputy crown prince’s visit came just three days after the kingdom’s Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir's trip to Islamabad who had held wide ranging talks with Pakistan’s civil and military leaders, including the prime minister and army chief.

Meanwhile, sources told this scribe that Pakistan has offered to the visiting royal dignitary about its readiness for providing training for elimination of terrorism, enhancement of intelligence sharing, narrative building against the extremism and terror. The existing defence cooperation between the two brotherly countries would also see increase in the wake of the high-profile visit, the sources said.

The diplomatic sources have pointed out that a high-level visit from Iran soon couldn’t be ruled out. Iran’s foreign minister who has paid a number of visits to Pakistan in the recent past could be the choice of Tehran for the visit, the sources hinted.

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