ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to participate in US-Arab-Islamic Summit, which is seen as an important conclave entailing crucial regional implications.
Upon his arrival at King Salman Airbase, PM Nawaz was warmly received by Riyadh Governor Faisal bin Bandar Al Saud. The prime minister is accompanied by Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has reached Riyadh PM was warmly recieved by Governor of Riyadh at King Salman airbase. pic.twitter.com/KWcNa2h5UQ— PML(N) (@pmln_org) May 21, 2017
Some 55 heads of states and governments from the Muslim world have been invited to participate in the three-day summit – a first trilateral summit of its kind. Sharif’s visit is taking place on the invitation of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, said a statement from the PM House on Saturday.
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There are reports that Sharif will hold informal interactions with Saudi royalties regarding Iran’s concerns over the 41-nation military alliance headed by Pakistan’s former army chief General [retd] Raheel Sharif.
However, an expert in matters of foreign affairs does not pin much hope on this count. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi said, “Saudi Arabia’s stance regarding Iran is too adamant to be engaged in dialogue.”
Terming Pakistan’s hope that Saudi Arabia is open to suggestions on the issue of Iran as ‘wishful thinking’, Rizvi cited Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s statement earlier this month that “there is no space for dialogue with Iran” as a clear indication of their perspective.
About the US policy on the Middle East after the arrival of President Donald Trump, Rizvi said, “There is convergence of interests between Saudis and Americans as far as Syria and organisations like Hizbullah and Hamas in Lebanon are concerned.”
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Other than the prospects of sale of $110 billion American-made arms to Saudi Arabia, which is being called the biggest such deal in US history, he said, Trump administration’s major interest in Middle East is the security of Israel.
Reports were also afloat that Premier Sharif would meet President Trump.
The Foreign Office on Saturday claimed “the full agenda of the half-day summit does not permit sideline bilateral meetings”. But since the prime minister is on a three-day visit, there are slight chances that he might be able to squeeze in an audience with Trump, who is on a two-day visit, with one already gone by.
A source in the PM House said that the FO’s press release is about formal meetings while Sharif will separately be meeting Arab leaders informally.
Explaining the summit’s agenda of providing an opportunity to the participating countries to discuss how to overcome the menace of terrorism and extremism across the world, the PM House statement revealed that the summit is expected to delink ‘terrorism’ from any particular religion, culture, civilisation or region.
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It said Sharif’s address would focus on Islam’s message of peace, tolerance and unity. He will highlight the great sacrifices and major successes achieved by Pakistan in defeating the scourge of terrorism and extremism in the region, it added.
The premier will also join the world leaders to attend the inauguration ceremony of the World Centre against Extremism, a counter-radicalisation initiative by Saudi Arabia, said the statement.
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