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Nawaz Sharif to visit Saudi Arabia

05 March, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to pay a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia from March 9 for underscoring the importance of the kingdom for Pakistan.

The visit has not been officially announced yet, but multiple government sources confirmed that Mr Sharif planned to visit Saudi Arabia from March 9 to 11.

During the visit, the prime minister is likely to meet Saudi King Salman.

Separately, there are reports that he might also attend the inaugural summit of the 34-nation military alliance which Saudi Arabia has announced for fighting terrorism.

The meeting is reportedly taking place on March 10.

The prime minister is making the trip ahead of a planned visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Islamabad that is likely after March 20.

The dates for Mr Rouhani’s visit have not been finalised yet as the Iranians are keeping them open for now because of what a diplomatic observer described as a developing situation.

Islamabad and Tehran have a history of cancelling visits due to regional issues and at least two trips were called off during the past couple of months.

Mr Sharif visited both Riyadh and Tehran in January when tension between the two states was at its height. It was dubbed as a ‘mediation trip’.

The Iranian leadership welcomed the initiative, while Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir apparently spurned it in a later statement, saying: “A lot of countries have offered mediation and delivered ideas between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but there is no need for this.”

The issues Mr Sharif would possibly discuss with Saudi leaders during his stay in Riyadh include Pakistan’s role in the 34-nation military alliance; Saudi Arabia’s financial assistance and planned investment in Pakistan; regional issues and other facets of bilateral ties.

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