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High-level Pak delegation left for Riyadh

15 April, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: A high-level delegation led by Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif along with Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry left for Saudi capital Riyadh on Wednesday 15,April,2015, the Foreign Office spokesperson confirmed.

According to diplomatic sources, the delegation will meet Saudi foreign and defence ministers and is also expected to meet Saudi Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz.

The delegation, which held a meeting with the prime minister prior to departure, will give assurance to the Saudi leadership that Pakistan is with Saudi Arabia in the Yemen crisis.

Last month, a high-level Pakistani delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had visited Riyadh to hold talks over the ongoing crisis in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and its allies last month launched air strikes in Yemen against Houthi fighters, who have tightened their grip in the southern city of Aden where the country's president had taken refuge.

The Sharif brothers have enjoyed close ties with the Saudi royal family, and spent their years of exile from Pakistan after 1999 in Jeddah. The premier's brother Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif, who is not part of the federal government, is leading the delegation.

Pakistan is a regional ally of Saudi Arabia, the main Sunni Muslim power in the Gulf, but has yet to commit itself publicly to military support to Riyadh's campaign in Yemen — a decision that appears to have upset its long-time ally.

Prime Minis­ter Nawaz Sharif tried on Monday to soothe frayed nerves by reassuring Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies over a parliamentary resolution that had called for neutrality in the Yemen conflict.

In a short statement made in the evening, the prime minister reiterated his commitment to security of Saudi Arabia, calling it a strategic ally, but without committing to any military engagement in the Gulf region.

Nawaz in his speech upheld the Parliament’s recent resolution to stay 'neutral' in the Yemen conflict, and repeated the words of the resolution regarding the importance of Saudi Arabia as an ally. “We stand with them shoulder to shoulder,” he had said.

Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirate's (UAE) minister of state for foreign affairs, lashed out at Pakistan's vote last week, terming it “contradictory and dangerous and unexpected”, and accusing Islamabad of siding with Iran, which is accused of backing Houthi rebels.

Gargash added that Pakistan's stand would come at a "high cost."

But Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan hit back on Sunday night in an unusually strongly-worded statement, accusing the UAE of “levelling threats.”

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