Saudi FM’s visit foreshadows ‘significant benefits’

Prince Faisal says Pakistan has ‘untapped potential’ in many areas which needs to be tapped

Kamran Yousaf April 16, 2024
Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar (R) speaks next to his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan during their joint press conference at the foreign ministry in Islamabad on April 16, 2024. PHOTO: AFP


The visit by a high-powered Saudi delegation would pave the way for “significant benefits” for both countries in the upcoming months, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said, following a wide-ranging engagement in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar, the visiting foreign minister said that he was “impressed” with the new initiative and arrangements being put in place by authorities in Pakistan to attract investment.

Prince Faisal led the high-powered delegation that included the core team of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to explore potential opportunities for investment in Pakistan under the banner of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC).

The visit was the follow up of recent trip by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia where he sought Saudi leadership’s help in reviving the country’s economy through investment. The crown prince instructed his key ministers to travel to Pakistan to explore opportunities of investment.

Against this backdrop, the Saudi delegation had a wide-ranging engagement in Pakistan. The Saudi delegation held separate meetings with President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Shehbaz, and Foreign Minister Dar and was given detailed presentation on the investment opportunities at the SIFC.

At a joint news conference at the Foreign Office, Prince Faisal said that the Saudi delegation travelled to Islamabad on the instructions of the crown prince. He termed his engagements “productive” and spoke about the depth of strategic and economic relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

“We are extremely impressed by the very proactive attitude that we saw in our meetings, especially with the Investment Council and a very strong business-focused approach on addressing challenges and opportunities and highlighting the work we can do together,” Prince Faisal said.

“I feel very confident that the results of this visit and the results of the work being done between the two respective teams with this attitude, with this approach of focus on results overcoming hurdles will deliver significant benefits for both of our countries, will significantly accelerate the process of achieving those investments that we’re looking at together,” he added.

“I can say that there is significant opportunity to increase the level of investment that is already on the table,” the Saudi foreign minister told reporters, adding that the visiting delegation had laid the ground for work to be done in the coming months.

There were no agreements or memoranda of understanding (MoUs) signed during the visit, as officials said that the tangible outcome of ongoing engagements would be announced during an expected visit of Crown Prince Mohammad at some time this year.

Pakistan is hoping that Saudi Arabia would pump billions of dollars in investment, something that would help the country address its chronic economic problems. Certain areas have already been identified for Saudi investors such as energy, agriculture, mines and minerals and even the hydro-power projects.

The Saudi foreign minister admitted that Pakistan had an “untapped potential” in many areas that needed to be tapped. “Working together, we will do what we can with our colleagues in the government of Pakistan to make that happen,” he said.

On the occasion, Foreign Minister Dar told reporters that he had never seen such a high-powered Saudi delegation to have visited Pakistan in the last 35 years. This, he added, highlighted the importance Saudi Arabia attached to its ties with Pakistan.

He lauded the Saudi leadership for swiftly responding to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s request for sending a high-powered delegation. Dar said the Saudi delegation was given the first-hand account of the SIFC and how the initiative was meant to fast-track investment in Pakistan.

Both the foreign ministers also spoke about the current crisis in the Middle East. Prince Faisal conceded that the international community failed to bring peace to the region. He castigated the international community for their double standards.

Prince Faisal said the aid started flowing to Gaza only after six foreign aid workers were killed by the Israelis. “We are now well beyond 33,000 civilians killed. We are now actively discussing the potential for famine In Gaza,” he stated.

The Saudi foreign minister warned that Gaza people were starving to death because the humanitarian assistance was not reaching them. “It is a complete failure of the international system and systems of international law and government to live up to their responsibilities.” he lamented.

“There is no justification for the restriction of humanitarian aid in entering Gaza,” the top Saudi diplomat said. Dar endorsed his Saudi counterpart’s stance and stressed that there must be an unconditional ceasefire in Gaza.

The foreign minister said that the world’s consciousness must wake up. “We believe the perpetual solution to this issue will be when a Palestinian state is established according to the 1964 resolution,” he stressed.

Earlier, the Saudi delegation attended the ‘Saudi Arabia-Pakistan Investment Conference’ at the SIFC, the Foreign Office said. On the occasion, Dar warmly welcomed the Saudi delegation, emphasising the deep-rooted bilateral ties and mutual strategic interests.

He highlighted the significance of enhanced bilateral strategic and economic partnership and the crucial role of Saudi investments in nurturing this relationship. He explained how Pakistan through the SIFC platform aimed to streamline investment processes and ensure a rapid decision-making.

The foreign minister highlighted abundant opportunities in Pakistan’s agriculture, information technology (IT), and mining sectors, and invited Saudi investors to engage in the mutually-beneficial partnerships. He called for constructive engagement for mutual prosperity and development.

The SIFC officials gave comprehensive briefings to the participants, encompassing the potential and investment opportunities in key sectors of Pakistan’s economy. Both sides held exhaustive deliberative sessions at the functional level to crystallise investment opportunities in Pakistan.

The Saudi side expressed great interest in improving investment ecosystem in Pakistan, appreciated SIFC’s role in amicable resolution of the Saudi legacy investment and business-related issues, and showed keen interest in investing in key sectors of Pakistan.

The Pakistan side assured the Saudi side of maximum support and facilitation in fast-tracking the kingdom’s prospective multibillion dollars investments in Pakistan.

The two sides also finalised a bilateral implementation mechanism to closely coordinate and execute investment-related matters at the functional level to turn the sovereign commitments into tangible economic outcomes.

The Saudi delegation also called on Prime Minister Shehbaz where both sides agreed to work closely to expedite the first phase of Saudi investments in Pakistan under the new arrangement, a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office said.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Shehbaz expressed his deep appreciation for the leadership of the Saudi Arabia and conveyed his sincerest wishes to King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The prime minister underscored the significance accorded by Pakistan to its longstanding fraternal, economic and strategic relations with Saudi Arabia. He said both countries had always stood together at all times,” the statement said.

He also recalled his “warm and productive” meeting with the crown prince earlier this month, saying that the visit of the Saudi delegation was a “manifestation of the strong commitment of both countries to the strengthening of bilateral relations focused on mutually beneficial economic cooperation”.

“In this regard, the prime minister stated that both sides needed to work closely to expedite the first phase of Saudi investments in Pakistan under the new arrangement,” the statement said. Shehbaz also informed the Saudi delegation about the SIFC and its initiatives to promote investment in Pakistan.

“He also highlighted the key role of Chief of Army Staff General Syed Asim Munir and the cooperation of all institutions for the promotion of investment in the country through SIFC,” the statement said.

With additional input from APP



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