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Saudi Foreign Min to visit Pak to addresses concerns

Islamabad: Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will pay a one-day visit to Pakistan on Thursday in what appears to be a damage control exercise by Riyadh to address the growing criticism against it in Islamabad triggered after Prime Minister Imran Khan pulled out of the key Kuala Lumpur summit, a media report said on Wednesday.

Pakistan faced huge domestic and international embarrassment after PM Khan refused to attend the summit in Malaysia seen as an attempt to create a new bloc in the Muslim world that could become an alternative to the dysfunctional Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) led by the Saudis. Khan had accepted Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad's invitation to the summit which was held from December 18 to 21, but pulled out of it at the eleventh hour reportedly due to Saudi pressure.

Saudi Arabia never wants to lose the public support it enjoys in Pakistan and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal is believed to be visiting Islamabad to dispel such an impression, quoted diplomatic sources as saying. The Saudi Foreign Minister will meet Pakistan's top civil and military leadership and convey a message that Riyadh values its "long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan", it said. The Pakistan government's explanation for not attending the summit was that Islamabad wanted to maintain its neutrality. A Turkish newspaper quoted President Recep Tayyib Erdogan as saying that Pakistan was pressured to stay away from the summit in which leaders of Malaysia, Turkey, Iran and Qatar participated. Following the Turkish newspaper report, Pakistan's Foreign Office issued a brief statement saying Islamabad did not participate in the summit because time and efforts were needed to address the concerns of major Muslim

countries.

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