Saudi FM Faisal bin Farhan to visit Pakistan next month

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud is expected to visit Pakistan in January 2021.–File photo

In a visible sign of a thaw in diplomatic relations between the two old and time-tested friends of the Muslim world, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud is expected to visit Pakistan in January 2021.

Diplomatic sources in Pakistan say the Saudi foreign minister will be accompanied by heads of some high profile companies and businessmen on his visit to Islamabad. Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, son of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, will also visit Pakistan along with the high profile delegation from the kingdom.

According to the sources, the Saudi foreign minister will meet his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan. The visiting delegation will discuss with the Pakistani authorities the political situation in the restive Middle Eastern region as well as establishment of an oil refinery in Pakistan.

The two sides will also discuss ways and means to improve their deteriorating diplomatic relations amid reports that one of the most influential friends of Pakistan in the Muslim world was pressurising Islamabad to change its principled stance on a separate state for the Palestinians and recognise the Jewish state of Israel.

The strain in Saudi-Pakistan relations became quite obvious in August this year when Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to stop dragging its feet and convene a meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers to discuss the sufferings of Kashmiris in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K).

In reaction, Saudi Arabia told Pakistan to immediately return $3 billion it had received from the kingdom as a soft loan. Pakistan had to approach the Chinese government on an emergency basis to return the Saudi loan. As of December 28, 2020, Pakistan has returned $2 billion to Saudi Arabia and is arranging money to return the remaining $1 billion.

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