Pakistan stays neutral in Saudi, Qatar rift: Sartaj

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Raheel cannot be recalled from S Arabia

Zahid Chaudhary

Islamabad

Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz stated on Wednesday that Pakistan will maintain the position of neutrality in the Gulf crisis and will refrain from interfering in the affairs of other countries. The adviser during an in-camera session was briefing the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on the on-going diplomatic rift in the Middle East that began after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Yemen and the Maldives cut off ties with Qatar.
Aziz added that the resolution adopted by Pakistan on the Yemen conflict will serve as the foundation for the role Pakistan will adopt in the current Gulf crisis.
The resolution proposed that Pakistan “should maintain neutrality in the conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis”.
Sartaj Aziz told the committee that the former chief of army staff Raheel Sharif had taken command of the 41-nation Saudi-led military coalition in his personal capacity.
During the committee’s session, PPP Senator Kareem Khawaja had voiced his dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s role in the Gulf crisis and added that the former army chief should be asked to return to Pakistan voluntarily.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf Senator Shibli Faraz pointed out that if Sharif was asked to return back to Pakistan, relations with Saudi Arabia would be negatively affected.
Aziz told the committee that Sharif was not sent by the government to lead the alliance and therefore, cannot be asked to return.
Committee Chairperson Nazir Sadiq said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not only met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud as part of his mediation efforts in the Gulf, but also spoke with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on the phone regarding a resolution to the rift.
In its response to the Middle Eastern crisis, Pakistan stresses the need for unity in the Muslim world and urged the countries involved to engage in dialogue.

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