Pakistan PM Imran Khan leaves for Saudi Arabia on three-day visit

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ISLAMAAD (PAKISTAN), May 7: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday left for Saudi Arabia for a three-day visit to discuss bilateral relations between the countries. 

According to Dawn, it is expected that Khan's visit will serve to improve "strained" relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that were shaken in the recent past due to several reasons. The Prime Minister Office said, "Imran Khan, is visiting Saudi Arabia on the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who struck a conciliatory tone towards the kingdom's arch-nemesis Iran last week, saying he sought good relations after the rivals held secret talks in Baghdad. Iran welcomed Saudi Arabia's change of tone." 

Prime Minister Khan is accompanied by a delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of his cabinet. 

The Prime Minister's consultations with the Saudi leadership will cover all areas of bilateral cooperation, including economics, trade, investment, energy, job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce, and welfare of the Pakistani diaspora in the kingdom. The two sides will also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest, reported Dawn. 

During the visit, the Prime Minister will also meet the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Yousef Al-Othaimeen, Secretary-General of the World Muslim League Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and the Imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madina. Khan will also interact with members of the Pakistani diaspora in Jeddah. He will also raise the issue of Islamophobia in the West, including a recent resolution of the European Parliament that called for the withdrawal of GSP plus status of Pakistan. 

The PMO's press release further said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had long-standing and historic fraternal relations, rooted deep in common faith, shared history, and mutual support. "The people of Pakistan hold the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in the highest esteem. The relationship is marked by close cooperation in all fields and mutual collaboration on regional and international issues, in particular those faced by the Muslim Ummah. Saudi Arabia is a member of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir," it added as per the Dawn. 

According to a Pakistani local media report, "Pakistani-Saudi relations have been complex all along but since 2015, when the Pakistani parliament restricted the military from participating in the war in Yemen, its relations with Saudi Arabia have soured. Military conflict in Yemen is said to be one of the reasons behind strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan." 

Last year Pakistan had expected Riyadh to support it in dealing with India over the Kashmir issue. In particular, Pakistan had sought a supportive meeting with the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC. After Saudi Arabia turned down the request, Pakistan repeated its demand, which in turn resulted in Riyadh calling for repayment of a 1 billion USD loan. Consequently, Pakistan repaid the loan while using the amount obtained under a new loan this time from China. 

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National News Agency, Nepal

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