Pakistan rejects rumours of sending troops to Yemen

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office has rejected rumours of sending Pakistani troops to join a Saudi-backed coalition forces fighting Houthi rebels in war-stricken Yemen.

“These are several reports in the media which are completely baseless,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhary told a press briefing Saturday night.

A Pakistani delegation will leave for Riyadh in the next 24 to 48 hours, he said, but rejected reports that Pakistan would join the Saudi-led coalition bombing targets in Yemen, calling them “speculations”.

“The reality is that our leadership is in contact with their (Saudi) leadership, and we have proposed that our delegation will visit and assess the situation, after which we will make decisions,” he said.

“If you go by assumptions and what others may have said, I do not think it will do justice to the situation,” he said.

The foreign secretary said that Pakistan has seven defence training pacts with Saudi Arabia.

“We have defence agreements with Saudi Arabia: they come here to get training and we go there to give them training,” he said.

He reiterated that Pakistan had not sent any additional soldiers to Saudi Arabia.

The foreign secretary added that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had spoken to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Friday night by telephone, restating Islamabad’s staunch support for the Gulf kingdom.

“The prime minister had assured the king that the safety and security of Saudi Arabia is very important for Pakistan and any threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity will be the cause of great concern for Pakistan,” Chaudhry said.

Saudi Arabia launched air strikes on Thursday to defend the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi from the advancing insurgents.

Pakistan is a longstanding ally of Saudi Arabia with close military ties, but Islamabad has not yet committed to the operation, which has drawn strong criticism from its neighbour Iran.