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Saudi FM’s visit postponed to later this week: FO

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir’s visit to Islamabad, scheduled for today, has been postponed to Thursday, Jan 7, 2016, said the Foreign Office in a statement.

Earlier today the FO first announced the postponement, saying the change had come at Saudi Arabia’s request but did not provide a reason for the delay.

Later, a new date – Jan 7 – for the Saudi foreign minister’s arrival was announced.

Mr Jubeir was due to arrive in Islamabad on a two-day visit on Sunday (today) to take the Pakistani leadership into confidence over the Middle East situation and the 34-nation military alliance recently formed by the kingdom, earlier reports had suggested.

Officials at the Foreign Office had earlier said the Saudi foreign minister would meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday.

Mr Jubeir was also supposed to hold meetings with Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

According to officials, the purpose of the visit was to consult Pakistan’s leadership over joining the anti-terrorism alliance.

Earlier in December, the kingdom announced the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism, naming Pakistan among the coalition members without first getting its consent.

Initial reports suggested Islamabad had been unaware of its inclusion in the coalition ─ Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said he was surprised to read the news that Saudi Arabia had named Pakistan as part of the group ─ but the Foreign Office rubbished these reports and confirmed participation in the coalition.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani slammed the government for confirming its participation while remaining unaware of the details of the coalition.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the Senate: “Consultations are in progress to work out as to which kind of activities we are going to participate in. There is intelligence sharing, capacity-building … we are yet to decide which activity is desired. We support every action against terrorism.”

Al-Jubeir earlier said that the participating countries would themselves decide about the extent of their participation.

The FO has said Islamabad is awaiting further details before making a decision in this regard.

The postponement of the Saudi Foreign Minister visit comes a day after Saudi Arabia executed 47 people, including a prominent Shia cleric, garnering worldwide condemnation.

Reports of a civil society demonstration outside Karachi’s Saudi consulate protesting ‘human rights violations’ by Saudi Arabia in response to the execution are also making the rounds.

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