PM Nawaz to visit Saudi Arabia on Thursday

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit Saudi Arabia on Thursday and is expected to discuss the developing situation in Yemen.

Prime Minister Sharif will hold talks with Saudi King Shah Salman during his visit.

The prime minister’s visit comes in the backdrop of the Pakistani parliament unanimously approving a resolution calling for maintaining neutrality during the conflict in Yemen.

The unanimous resolution was passed on April 10 after a week-long debate during a joint parliamentary session, also vowed that Pakistan would come to Saudi Arabia’s defence if the country’s sovereignty or territorial integrity is threatened.

Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan for military assistance, including ground troops, fighter jets and navy vessels to join the coalition forces in the Yemen operation.

On April 15, a high level Pakistani delegation held talks with Saudi leaders including Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Abdulaziz.

The delegation was headed by Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and also included Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

Both sides discussed bilateral relations and the regional situation with special reference to the Yemen crisis.

The visit by the Pakistani delegation came hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and exchanged views on Yemen crisis.

The US placed two top figures in Yemen´s Houthi rebellion – Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, and Ahmed Ali Saleh, the son of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh – on its sanctions blacklist while the United Nations Security Council has approved an arms embargo on the group.

The UN Security Council vote came after Iran, which is accused of backing the rebels, proposed a ceasefire followed by foreign-mediated talks.