ISLAMABAD: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to consider him the “ambassador of Pakistan” in Saudi Arabia moments after the two countries signed key memorandums of understanding (MoUs) worth $20 billion on Sunday in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing.
The MoUs were signed by Pakistani and Saudi ministers on Sunday night in the presence of the crown prince and Khan.
The crown prince kicked off a rare Asian tour with a two-day visit to Pakistan on Sunday evening. After Islamabad, he will travel to India and China.
#Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Saudi #CrownPrince Mohammad bin Salman meet one-on one-at Prime Minister House in #Islamabad on Sunday. Prime minister earlier received crown prince at the Nur Khan Airbase and personally drove him to PM House. #CrownPrinceInPakistan pic.twitter.com/kLXhFdWNng— Arab News Pakistan (@arabnewspk) February 17, 2019
He was received by Khan and Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as he landed in Rawalpindi. The crown prince was given a 21-gun salute upon arrival.
A formation of JF-17 thunder jets and F-16 fighter jets had escorted his plane after its entry into Pakistani airspace.
Khan broke protocol by personally driving the crown prince from the Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi on the outskirts of Islamabad.
On a personal request by Khan to the crown prince to allow Hajj pilgrims to go through immigration procedures in Pakistan and to look into the conditions of Pakistani workers, particularly prisoners, in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince said the Kingdom will do “whatever we can do” to oblige Islamabad.
Prime Minister Imran khan then hosted a dinner for the two delegations in honor of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. #CrownPrinceinPakistan— Arab News Pakistan (@arabnewspk) February 17, 2019
For more coverage go to: https://t.co/4mPiTenipI pic.twitter.com/9Gk7xEaegL
“Just consider me the ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia,” the crown prince said amid applause by Saudi and Pakistani ministers, journalists and businessmen present at the banquet at the Prime Minister House.
The crown prince said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had signed investment MoUs worth $20 billion.
“It’s big for phase one, and definitely it’s going to grow … and be beneficial for both countries,” he added.
“We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future, and we want to be sure that we are part of that.”
What a welcome! Pakistan’s “Sherdils” aerobatics display squad from the Pakistan Air Force greet the jet carrying Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. #CrownPrinceinPakistan— Arab News Pakistan (@arabnewspk) February 17, 2019
Earlier, Khan and the crown prince had a one-on-one meeting at the Prime Minister House, followed by the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council, co-chaired by the two leaders.
The council was formed “to fast track decisions in key areas of bilateral cooperation, and for close monitoring of their implementation,” the Prime Minister House said in a statement on Sunday night.
“Under the Supreme Coordination Council, a Steering Committee and Joint Working Groups have been set up at Ministerial and Senior Officials levels, to develop frameworks of cooperation in specific projects and submit recommendations to the respective Ministers.”
Khan and the crown prince will co-chair sessions of the joint working groups on Monday. “For Pakistanis, this is a great day,” Khan said in a speech delivered after the signing of the MoUs.
“Saudi Arabia has always been a friend for Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has been a friend when Pakistan has needed friends,” he added.
.@ImranKhanPTI welcomes #SaudiCrownPrince #MohammedBinSalman at Nur Khan Air Base for the first stop of his official Asia Tour.— Arab News Pakistan (@arabnewspk) February 17, 2019
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“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are taking their relationship to a level where it has never been before.”
Last year, Saudi Arabia offered Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year, and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports to help stave off a current account crisis.
Speaking about the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of energy and infrastructure projects that forms a key node in Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond, Khan expressed hope that Saudi Arabia will participate with Islamabad in what he considered an “exciting future.”
He said: “We have CPEC, we have links with China, we have very close connectivity with probably … the biggest market in the world, which is China. So we welcome Saudi Arabia to participate with us. It’s an exciting future.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Office earlier thanked the crown prince for “generously” reducing Saudi visa fees at Khan’s request.
The Saudi Embassy in Islamabad announced on Friday that non-pilgrimage visit visa fees for single entry has been lowered from SR2,000 ($533) to SR338, while the fee for a multiple-entry visa has been reduced from SR3,000 to SR675. The new fee structure came into effect on Feb. 15.