It is investment, not charity: Saudi FM

Saudi Arabia on Monday maintained that $20 billion projects announced by the kingdom were not a charity but an investment for the benefit of the two countries.

“This is not charity, but investment, for the benefit of the two countries,” Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said here at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. He said Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, through close strategic and economic cooperation, are making headway in achieving the targets of development. “We are developing a roadmap with set targets ahead in areas including counter-terrorism, economy, people-to-people contacts and culture to further deepen our relations,” he said.

Adel al-Jubeir said Saudi investment was meant to contribute to the economic growth of Pakistan. He mentioned the seven memorandums of understanding (MoUs) signed between the two countries and said the bilateral cooperation has been institutionalized for an effective implementation.

To a question about recent tensions between Pakistan and India over Pulwama attack, he said, “Our objective is to try to de-escalate tensions between the two countries, neighbouring countries, and to see if there is a path forward to resolving those differences peacefully.”

Riyadh wants to ‘de-escalate’ tensions between Pakistan, India

Foreign Minister Qureshi said 10 joint working groups have been formed under the Saudi-Pak Supreme Coordination Council, which will meet every three months. He said the council will coordinate in areas including security, defence, intelligence sharing and energy and the top leadership will oversee the implementation of the projects. “The council is a comprehensive plan with well-laid design which will fulfill the vision of the leaders of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Qureshi expressed gratitude to Saudi government for revising the visa fees for Pakistani visitors and pilgrims. He mentioned that strong economic ties with Saudi Arabia will greatly benefit the Pakistani diaspora with immense employment opportunities as the country is opening up to the world through tourism and construction of two new cities.

Adel al-Jubeir lauded the Pakistani citizens including skilled labourers in Saudi Arabia for contributing constructively to the country’s development and mentioned the existing people-to-people contacts at university level and military academies.

On Afghanistan, the Saudi minister said Saudi Arabia is in favour of a peaceful solution to the problem and is also facilitating the peace process in close coordination with the Afghan government, Pakistan, United States, United Arab Emirates and Taliban. On recent terrorist incident in Iran, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan is greatly upset on the tragedy and strongly condemns the act. “We can never condone such activity and are ready to cooperate with Iran on intelligence sharing,” he said, adding that Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty of Iran.

Published in Daily Times, February 19th  2019.