PM held encouraging talks with Saudi leadership to defuse tension: Asif

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Pakistan has no fight with Afghanistan but wants effective border management: Asif tells Senate

ISLAMABAD, Jan 19 (APP): Defence Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif on Tuesday informed the National Assembly that Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif held encouraging talks with Saudi leadership to defuse tension and there was good response from Saudi Arabia.
In his statement before the lower house of the Parliament, he said, the Prime Minister held talks with the Iranian leadership on Tuesday under the same spirit and expressed
the hope that his visit would be successful.
He said the aim of the visit was to defuse tension between the two Muslim countries, adding that it also aimed at removing  irritants emerged in the unity of Muslim Ummah.
He pointed out that Pakistan was playing a mediation role which was also desire of the Parliament. He said with the success of this mission, Pakistan’s positive image would be promoted in the world.
Referring to the 34-member alliance of Islamic countries, the Minister said it was still evolving and its scope and participation was being discussed. He said the matter came under discussion during the visits of Saudi foreign and defence ministers.
He made it clear that it was not an alliance against Iran rather it  was an alliance against terrorism.
Khawaja Asif said the alliance had no military objectives and aimed at preparing a joint counter-terrorism narrative. He said this alliance and Pakistan’s role in the alliance should not be prejudged. The parliament would be taken into confidence on the issue, he
added.
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz  told the House that it was just a coalition of 34-member states and not an alliance.
He said it was upto any country to decide to take part in  any activity of the alliance such as intelligence sharing, counter-terrorism training, capacity building etc. The alliance
was still at an evolving stage, he added.
The Advisor also clarified a news item in a section of the press regarding statement of foreign secretary about the 34-member  coalition. He said the foreign secretary had not stated
that he had no information rathed he had stated that they  were getting information about the issue.
He said in the last meeting of OIC in Kuwait a comprehensive discussion was held on counter terrorism, training, capacity building, IED training etc.
Sartaj Aziz said there should be no misunderstanding about Pakistan and Iran relations and added that so far no negative reaction had  come from Iran.
He said he phoned the Iranian foreign minister yesterday, who stated that the Prime Minister was most welcome in Iran.
The Iranian minister’s response was very positive as both the countries had cordial relations, he added.Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan had a balanced and neutral policy and had
cordial relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Earlier, Defence Minister told the House that Pakistan had  a defence agreement with Saudi Arabia since 1980 and in 2007 counter terrorism training was added to it. He said that
presently 1125 officers and personnel of armed forces were deployed in Saudi Arabia and basic purpose of their deployment was training.
Khwaja Muhammad Asif said the US administration had agreed to provide eight F-16 fighters to Pakistan. He added that these fighter jets had played a vital role in eliminating the
hideouts of terrorists in Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
He said the Indian lobby and a former Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, were lobbying against the deal but the US government had agreed in principle to deliver these fighters to Pakistan.
PPP’s Sayed Naveed Qamar said Pakistan could not afford to become a party in tension between the two Islamic states.PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood said that there must be clarity on the issue as Pakistan had good relations with both the Islamic states. He said neutrality on the issue was a must and it should be handled carefully.
Syed Raza Abidi of MQM said both were Islamic states and the government should adopt a positive approach on the issue. He said the Prime Minister should take the parliament into confidence on the issue.