Army chief to accompany PM Nawaz on Saudi visit

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief General Raheel Sharif will accompany Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday on a key one-day visit to Riyadh to meet the top Saudi leadership.

PM Sharif chaired a high-level meeting of civil-military leaders here today, attended by Chief of Army staff Gen Raheel Sharif and officials of the foreign ministry, to discuss the situation in the Middle East with focus on the conflict in Yemen.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said it was decided during the meeting today that Army Chief General Raheel Sharif would accompany the prime minister on the Saudi visit scheduled for Thursday.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, PM’s Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry will also be part of the delegation that visits Saudi Arabia, he said.

The meeting discussed Pakistan’s official position on the Yemen conflict after Saudi-led coalition forces announced an end to air strikes against Houthi rebels.

The meeting also discussed Saudi Arabia’s request to Pakistan for military assistance in the Yemen operation, and the recent joint parliamentary resolution urging the government to stay neutral in the Middle East conflict.

Pakistan, a longtime ally of Saudi Arabia, has resisted a request by the kingdom to join coalition forces in the operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Pakistan welcomes end of Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen

Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office welcomed the announcement by Saudi Arabia to end four weeks of air strikes by Arab coalition forces in Yemen.

“Pakistan welcomes the announcement by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the end of air campaign in Yemen. This will pave the way for political solution of the crisis in Yemen,” said a statement from the foreign office.

“We share the desire of Saudi Arabia for peaceful settlement of the crisis,” it said.

On Tuesday night, the Saudi-led coalition announced an end to “Operation Decisive Storm based on a request by the Yemeni government and President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi”, saying operations would now enter a political phase.

The Saudi defence ministry said the air strikes had managed to “successfully remove threats to Saudi Arabia’s security and that of neighbouring countries” by destroying heavy weaponry and ballistic missiles seized by the Houthis.

The UN health agency says more than 900 people have been killed since the airstrikes were launched against rebels clashing with pro-government forces in Yemen.
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