Trump-Khan summit ‘arranged through MBS’

Prime Minister Imran Khan. (Supplied)
Updated 21 July 2019
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Trump-Khan summit ‘arranged through MBS’

  • Pakistan officials: ‘Saudi crown prince used Kushner friendship to line up PM’s visit’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s invitation to visit the US and meet President Donald Trump was arranged through direct assistance from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, two senior officials said on Saturday.

Khan will arrive in Washington on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Trump that Pakistan hopes will help to restore trust and attract much-needed foreign investment.
When asked if Crown Prince Salman had played an “instrumental role” in paving the way for the Khan-Trump meeting, a senior Pakistani foreign office official said “absolutely.”
He declined to give further details and requested anonymity as he is not the official spokesman of the Foreign Ministry.
A senior member of Khan’s Cabinet also confirmed the role of the crown prince in setting up the meeting, saying that he had used his personal friendship with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, to help arrange the meeting.
Kushner’s friendship and support for Crown Prince Salman has been one of the most important bonds that has helped draw Trump into the embrace of Saudi Arabia as one of his most important international allies. Now the friendship seems to have come in handy for Pakistan, a longtime Saudi ally itself.
The now-jailed former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was the last Pakistani head of state to visit the US in October 2015. Since then, relations have soured and last year Trump cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of offering “nothing but lies and deceit” while giving safe haven to terrorists, a charge Pakistan vehemently rejected.
In February this year, however, Trump said that the US had developed a “much better” relationship with Pakistan. Recently, attempts to placate the other side have been made by both governments, with Pakistan arresting the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Saeed, who has for years had a $10 million US bounty on his head.
The US also recently added the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army to its list of terror groups, honoring a long-time request by Islamabad, which has been fighting the group in the southwestern Balochistan province for decades.
On Saturday, Khan leads a high-level delegation to Washington, which includes ministers of his Cabinet, commerce adviser, financial advisers, the foreign minister and, in a first, the country’s powerful army chief, head of intelligence and military spokesperson.
“The purpose of Khan’s visit is to take Pak-America relations out of the cold storage (they) have been in and request the US to reimburse the $800 million owed to the Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan,” the defense analyst and retired air marshal, Abid Rao, told Arab News.

FASTFACT

• Prime Minister Imran Khan leads a high-level delegation to Washington.

• It includes ministers of his Cabinet, commerce adviser, financial advisers, the foreign minister and, in a first, the country’s army chief, head of intelligence and military spokesperson.

He said that Khan would emphasize that Pakistan was not interested in aid but would like to “develop trade with the US which mutually benefits and serves each other’s interests, an economic partnership.”
“This meeting and its conclusion is very important for Pakistan’s image internationally and for the US,” Rao said. “Today, Iran is a threat, the Gulf oil flow is under threat ... and the US is trying to pull out from Afghanistan ... Pakistan has solutions and suggestions.”  
Defense expert, Group Captain Sultan Hali, said that Khan would set the record straight during his meeting with Trump, especially on the core issue of Afghanistan. With a powerful delegation accompanying Khan, decisions, suggestions and agreements would be made “right then and there without seeking approvals from back home.”
“He should be able to look Trump in the eye and speak without worrying,” Hali said, stressing that Khan must build his “personal reputation with Trump.”
The prime minister will also meet prominent members of the US Congress, corporate leaders and opinion-makers as well as members of the Pakistani diaspora in Washington.
He is also scheduled to address more than 19,000 overseas Pakistanis at the Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, on Sunday.       


North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

Updated 4 min 50 sec ago

North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

  • South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme
  • Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, although a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people

SEOUL: North Korea’s crop production this year is expected to drop to its lowest level in five years, bringing serious shortages for 40 percent of the population, as a dry spell and poor irrigation hit an economy already reeling from sanctions over its weapons programs, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In its latest quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the poor harvest of the country’s main crops, rice and maize, means 10.1 million people are in urgent need of assistance.
“Below-average rains and low irrigation availability between mid-April and mid-July, a critical period for crop development, mainly affected the main season rice and maize crops,” the FAO said. The report, which covers cereal supply and demand around the world and identifies countries that need external food aid, didn’t disclose detailed estimates of production by volume.
North Korea has long struggled with food shortages and a dysfunctional state rationing system, and state media has in recent months warned of drought and other “persisting abnormal phenomena.”
The crops shortfall comes as the country bids to contain the spread of African swine fever in its pig herd, following confirmation of a first case in May.
The disease, fatal to pigs though not harmful to humans, has spread into Asia — including South Korea — since first being detected in China last year, resulting in large-scale culls and reduced production of pork, a staple meat across the region including in North Korea.
The FAO report followed earlier UN assessments this year that the isolated country’s food production last year fell to its lowest level in more than a decade amid a prolonged heatwave, typhoon and floods.
South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). But its delivery has been delayed by Pyongyang’s lukewarm response amid stalled inter-Korean dialogue and denuclearization talks with the United States, Seoul officials said.
In July, the North’s official KCNA news agency said a campaign to mitigate the effects of drought was under way by digging canals and wells, installing pumps, and using people and vehicles to transport water.
But North Korea has told the United Nations to cut the number of its staff it deploys in the country for aid programs. citing the “politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces.”
Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, but observers said a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people.