Pakistan denies report of rift with Saudi Arabia

A major reason behind OIC's inaction has been Saudi's reluctance to accept Pakistan's request for holding a meeting specifically on Kashmir

Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday denied reports of a rift with Saudi Arabia and said the two countries enjoy strong ties, amid reports of strain in their relations over Riyadh's reluctance to toe Islamabad's line on the Kashmir issue.

Foreign Office Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have strong economic, political, security and military cooperation at all levels.

"Prime Minister Imran Khan's remarks and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa's recent visit to Saudi Arabia attest to the unchanged fraternal relations and close contact between the two countries, Chaudhri said during his weekly press briefing.

"Pakistan remains firmly committed to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia," he added.

He said that Pakistan appreciates the Kingdom's role in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan has been pushing the 57-member organisation, which is the second largest intergovernmental body after the UN, for the foreign ministers' meeting since India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August last year.

However, there has not been any positive response from Jeddah-based OIC, the biggest bloc of Islamic countries in the world, to Pakistan's request so far.

A major reason behind the OIC's inaction has been Saudi Arabia's reluctance to accept Pakistan's request for holding a meeting specifically on Kashmir. Riyadh's support is crucial for any move at the OIC, which is dominated by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.

Pakistan has been unsuccessfully trying to drum up international support against India for withdrawing Jammu and Kashmir's special status.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution was its internal matter. It also advised Pakistan to accept reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, for the first time, criticised the Saudi government in a recent TV interview and threatened to call an OIC meeting by sidestepping the Gulf country.

Saudis avoided directly responding to Qureshi's remarks, but reportedly stopped renewing a USD 3.2 billion oil credit facility to Pakistan despite requests from Islamabad. Pakistan has also paid back USD 1 billion loan to Riyadh which, according to some reports, the Saudis had demanded.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia granted Pakistan a USD 3 billion loan and USD 3.2 billion oil credit facility to help its balance of payments crisis after Prime Minister Khan visited the country to seek financial support.

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