Pakistan and Saudi Arabia reaffirm determination to cement bilateral ties: newspaper

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Ambassador Nawaf bin Saeed Al-Maliki called Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday amid what appear to be frayed bilateral ties due to Riyadh’s refusal to renew its loan.

“The exchange of views focused on bilateral cooperation and the Covid-19 situation,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement about the meeting.

“The determination to further strengthen the longstanding and strong fraternal ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia was reaffirmed,” he added.

The repayment of $ 1 billion last week as the second tranche of a $ 3 billion loan highlighted what many see as unrest in relations between the two countries over geopolitical differences.

Envoy Meets Prime Minister After Islamabad Unexpectedly Repaying Part Of Saudi Loan

In 2018, Saudi Arabia had provided a $ 3 billion loan to Pakistan for three years to avoid a balance of payments crisis that the country was facing at the time. On that occasion, the Kingdom also agreed to provide an oil credit line worth 3.2 billion dollars, but it was suspended after the first year.

Saudi Arabia’s cash loan has already expired. However, there was an expectation that Riyadh would renew the loan in view of Pakistan’s difficult economic conditions, especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Saudis, moreover, in the past never insisted on repaying loans, but that did not happen this time. Riyadh’s message was clear that he wanted his money back.

Pakistan has so far repaid $ 2 billion with help from China and is ready to pay the final installment of $ 1 billion next month.

The Saudi attitude, some say, was due to its unease over the direction of Pakistan’s foreign policy, especially its relations with Turkey and Iran.

Many officials, despite failing to extend the Saudi loan, remain optimistic about the renewal of ties with the Kingdom.

A high-level Saudi delegation, led by Prince Faisal bin Farhan, is expected to visit Islamabad early next month. A Pakistani delegation is also expected to visit Riyadh soon after.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Tahir Ashrafi, who is also the special representative for the Middle East, dismissed these claims as propaganda. “There is no pressure from Saudi Arabia in any respect,” he said. Rather, Maulana Ashrafi argued that ties with Saudi Arabia were at a high point compared to the last decade.

Posted in Dawn, Dec 22, 2020

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