ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Wednesday told the Upper House of parliament that the financial assistance received from Saudi Arabia was totally ‘unconditional’ and that Pakistan didn’t agree to become part of any conflict in the Middle East in exchange for the package. “There is no reason for us to be part of Yemen conflict. Pakistan has received an unconditional package from Saudi Arabia. No conditions have been imposed at all,” the minister said while responding to concerns expressed by the opposition. “The confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia has reached unprecedented levels as the two countries fight for regional dominance in Yemen and Syria,” the minister observed, adding that the strain could affect the entire region, including Pakistan. “Considering the importance of the issue, Prime Minister Imran Khan has offered to play a mediatory role to resolve the Yemen conflict,”he said, and recalled that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif too had tried to arbitrate in the Yemen dispute but remained unsuccessful. “It is a proxy war going on … whatever is happening in Yemen and Syria,” Qureshi said. “What should be Pakistan’s role in this war?” he asked, adding that on one side Pakistan has relations with Saudi Arabia, while on the other Iran is a neighbouring country.He informed the House that the Iranian foreign minister had said his country would welcome and ‘respond positively’to Pakistan’s role in the Yemen dispute. He said he was also seeing a ‘slight shift’ in Saudi Arabia’s position with regard to the Yemen war and progress could be made by continuous engagement. Qureshi said Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia had been frosty for a few years and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government has been successful in rectifying the same.”We have re-engaged [the Saudis]… and the vacuum has been broken,” he said, adding that the PTI government has been able to reach the understanding the previous two governments could not. However, the opposition remained unconvinced with the foreign minister’s assurances regarding Pakistan’s role as a mediator in the Saudi-Yemen conflict. PPP leader Sherry Rehman criticised Qureshi’s statement and said that the opposition’s apprehensions regarding the matter were not addressed by the government.”The foreign minister made a long speech and while it revolved around the prime minister’s offer of acting as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, he did not answer any of the questions put forth by the opposition,” she said. “Pakistan publicly made this offer and Yemen refused it. How can Pakistan act as a mediator in the conflict when it is taking loans from Saudi Arabia?” she wondered. “Saudi Arabia could raise questions on Pakistan’s offer of acting a mediator,” she said, adding that the details of the loans taken from the Kingdom have also not been shared with the parliament. Speaking about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to China, the foreign minister said the tour had been ‘highly beneficial’ for the country, adding that it was for the first time that top four Chinese leaders had separately met the Pakistani leadership.”We have agreed to upgrade strategic dialogue between China and Pakistan to the foreign ministers’ level,” he said. Published in Daily Times, November 8th 2018.