Tariq Ullah Wardak
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi Wednesday said Pakistan was willing to play its role for restoring peace and stopping bloodshed in Yemen and Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to mediate between different parties in the conflict.
Speaking in the Senate, he said the government would seek the wisdom of the Upper House of Parliament to move forward on the issue, with an aim to stop bloodshed and spread of terrorism, ensure provision of medical aid and food to the affected population, and maintain territorial integrity of Yemen.
He said in 2015, the parliament decided to maintain the country’s neutrality and Saudi Arabia accepted the important role of Pakistan. He stressed the need for national consensus and a long term approach on the issue of Yemen.
The foreign minister said there was no tension in the Middle East and Gulf region in the past but now the situation was other way round, which was unprecedented. Pakistan was affected by the proxy wars in Syria and Yemen, he added.
The tug of war was continuing in the region for dominance and Pakistan was getting affected with it, he said adding the United States and Arab countries held a summit in Riyadh and later on rivalries were accentuated between different powerful countries.
He said the US withdrew with its agreement with Iran and renewed its sanctions on the country, which would have an effect on its stability. The European Union had its differences with the United States for its withdrawal from the agreement with Iran and it was taking steps to keep its trade ties intact with Iran. He pointed out that despite the sanctions, the United States gave waiver to India so that it was less impacted because of its sanctions on Iran.
He said Iran and Saudi Arabia were both important to Pakistan. Workers from Pakistan send billions of dollars earned in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, he added.
The position of Saudi Arabia, he said, had seen a shift and Pakistan could make an effort for restoring peace in Yemen and reminded that the United Nations, Arab and Gulf countries made unsuccessful attempts in the past to restore peace in Yemen.
He said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the United Nations special envoy wanted to bring the warring Yemeni parties to the table and find a political solution. Pakistan and Imran Khan had taken the lead in playing a role to find a solution of the conflict, he added.
The minister said similarly, Prime Minister Imran Khan in the past talked about negotiated solution in Afghanistan and now even the US had nominated Zalmay Khalilzad to push the peace process forward and bring reconciliation in our neighbouring country. Briefing the House about the prime minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia and China, he said Pakistan had fraternal ties with Saudi Arabia but there was need to improve the relationship which was getting cold due to a situation that had arisen in 2015. The minister said the previous government failed to increase understanding with Saudi Arabia but the situation had improved now and Saudi Arabia provided an economic package to Pakistan to bring balance in payments and stabilize the economy. The Saudi government gave facility of $3 billion of deferred oil payment facility a year for three years period, he added. Qureshi said Saudi Arabia gave an unconditional package and financial support to Pakistan contrary to the apprehension expressed by some people in the country. He took the House into confidence about Pakistan’s relations with China and said the prime minister’s visit to China was very beneficial as he met the top Chinese leadership, including President, Premier, and Chairman of National People’s Congress and Vice President, who were leading the accountability drive in their country. “We wanted to send a message that our relationship with China was deep and will further deepen. We maintained our strategic relationship and took steps to build the economic relationship with China, which was an economic giant and whose economy once grew in double digits and now was growing at 7.6 percent.”
Qureshi said he met the Chinese foreign minister and agreed to upgrade the bilateral relationship and hold a trilateral meeting of Pakistan, China and Afghanistan in December to boost efforts of peace, development and reconciliation in Afghanistan. He said the nation was unanimous on the CPEC and the last government gave preference and kept focus on the infrastructure development projects.
Now the ongoing projects would continue but a new direction would be set and the focus would be on livelihoods, human development and people-centric development, including education, health, agriculture, industry, skill development. The focus would be on building of special economic zones and regional connectivity along with speeding up operations at the Gwadar port. He said the international expo in China was attended by 130 countries and Pakistan was given prominence by the world leadership.