Middle East ties not at US expense: Pakistan Foreign Office

Dr. Mohammad Faisal
Updated 30 December 2018

Middle East ties not at US expense: Pakistan Foreign Office

  • Saudi Arabia agreed to give 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

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad’s ties with Middle Eastern states are “not at the cost of our bilateral relationship with any other country,” including the US, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman told Arab News on Saturday.
“Pakistan is actively engaged with the US, and as a result Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Islamabad and the US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has visited Pakistan three times,” said Dr. Mohammad Faisal.
“The (Pakistani) government believes in productive and proactive diplomacy, and this is what we’ve done in the last four months.”
During its first four months in office, the government of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has focused on strengthening ties with Middle Eastern countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Analysts say this is due to tensions between Pakistan and the US over the war in Afghanistan.
“Saudi Arabia and the UAE are time-tested and all-weather friends of Pakistan, and it’s quite natural for Pakistan to warm up its relationship with these countries at a time of ever-deteriorating diplomatic relations with the US,” said Tahir Malik, international affairs professor at NUML University in Islamabad.
It is imperative for Pakistan to forge close ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE “to stay relevant in the international community,” he added.
After being elected in August, Khan chose Saudi Arabia for his maiden foreign trip in September, where he held meetings with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Khan traveled to the UAE soon after.
Both trips bore dividends. Saudi Arabia agreed to give 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. The UAE offered $3 billion in aid.
“I don’t think this clear appreciation of our close historic relationship with Saudi Arabia and the UAE was demonstrated by previous Pakistani governments,” Rasul Bukhsh Rais, a professor of political science, told Arab News.
Khan returned from those two countries with “incredible support at a very difficult hour in Pakistan’s history,” marked by a new transition to democracy, a deteriorating economy, a new party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) in power and a new prime minister, Rais said.
Pakistan needs to explore trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, lure investors by offering incentives, and explore opportunities to increase agricultural exports, he added.
Former Pakistani diplomat Javed Hafeez said Khan’s government has boosted relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Islamabad is committed to protecting Saudi sovereignty against any foreign aggression, Hafeez added.
According to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, some 4 million Pakistanis live and work in the Middle East.


Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

Updated 13 October 2019

Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

  • EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down hopes Sunday of a breakthrough in his last-ditch bid to strike an amicable divorce deal with the European Union.
Negotiators went behind closed doors for intensive talks in Brussels after Johnson outlined a new set of proposals to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday.
They have very little time left to succeed.
EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline just two weeks away.
The 27 would ideally like to have a full proposal to vote on by then.
But the sides are trying to achieve in a few days what they had failed to in the more than three years since Britons first voted to leave the European Union after nearly 50 years.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier called the weekend negotiations “constructive” enough to keep going for another day.
“A lot of work remains to be done,” Barnier stressed in a statement to EU ambassadors.
“Discussions at technical level will continue (Monday).”
Downing Street said Johnson also told his cabinet to brace for a cliff-hanger finish.
He reiterated “that a pathway to a deal could be seen but that there is still a significant amount of work to get there and we must remain prepared to leave on October 31,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
Johnson rose to power in July on a promise not to extend Brexit for a third time this year — even for a few weeks.
Breaking that pledge could come back to haunt him in an early general election that most predict for the coming months.
Johnson is under parliamentary orders to seek a extension until January 31 of next year if no deal emerges by Saturday.
He has promised to both follow the law and get Britain out by October 31 — a contradiction that might end up being settled in court.
Outgoing EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker said British politics were getting more difficult to decipher than the riddle of an “Egyptian sphinx.”
“If the British ask for more time, which they probably will not, it would in my view be a historical nonsense to refuse them,” Juncker told Austria’s Kurier newspaper.
Ireland’s Varadkar hinted on Thursday that he could support the talks running on up to the October 31 deadline if a deal seemed within reach.
The few details that have leaked out suggest a compromise around the contentious Irish border issue Britain’s Northern Ireland partially aligned with EU customs rules.
Whether such a fudge suits both Brussels and the more ardent Brexit backers in parliament who must still approve a deal should become clearer by the end of the week.
Britain will only avoid a chaotic breakup with its closest trading partners if the agreement is also passed by the UK parliament — something it has failed to do three times.
Johnson heads a minority government and must rely on the full backing of not only his own fractured Conservatives but also Northern Ireland’s small Democratic Unionist Party.
DUP’s parliamentary leader Nigel Dodds warned Johnson that “Northern Ireland must remain entirely in the customs union of the United Kingdom” and not the EU.
“And Boris Johnson knows it very well,” Dodds told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper.
The comments do not necessarily rule out DUP support.
UK media are presenting Johnson’s mooted compromise as a “double customs” plan that could be interpreted to mean that Northern Ireland is leaving EU rules.
Yet details are still under discussion and the prime minister’s allies are urging lawmakers to give the British leader a chance.
Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn signalled Sunday that he would wait for the outcome of the EU summit before trying to force an early election.
But he added that there was “a strong possibility” that those polls would come before the Christmas break.