Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

Pakistan's Khan prays at Prophet's Mosque and meets crown prince on visit to Saudi Arabia

Pakistani prime minister discussed regional issues with Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Saturday as he arrived for a short visit to Saudi Arabia to meet senior officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The pair discussed the regional situation and "aspects of joint co-operation", the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Soon after his arrival, Mr Khan travelled to the Prophet’s Mosque where he prayed.

The Pakistani leader then travelled to Riyadh where he was met at the airport by the city’s governor, Prince Faisal bin Bandar.

The Pakistani Foreign Office said the one-day visit was part of “regular exchanges” between the two men.

The visit is the fourth trip by Pakistan’s leader to the kingdom this year.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Riyadh this week to meet his equivalent, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, to discuss relations.

Saudi Arabia considers Pakistan to be an important military partner on whom the kingdom has historically relied for training and troops.

Although Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have had good relations for decades, Mr Khan has sought to build closer ties since taking office last year as he looks for assistance from the Gulf region in tackling his country’s dire economic situation.

In February, Prince Mohammed announced $20 billion (Dh73.45bn) in investments into the Pakistani economy, with the possibility for more funds. This followed a $3bn injection to ease Pakistan's financial woes.

When he took office last August, Mr Khan was faced with a balance of payments crisis. The country’s foreign reserves dipped and there were concerns about its ability to cover the cost of imports.

The Pakistani rupee has lost about of a fifth of its value against the dollar since 2017.

Mr Khan won power on a pledge to reform the economy. His 100-day plan involved cracking down on corruption, returning embezzled funds and cutting benefits for government officials.

Mr Khan has also been involved in mediation, including on a recent visit to Iran at the request of US President Donald Trump, amid hopes he could help to defuse tension in the Gulf after a attacks on shipping and strikes on Saudi Aramco oil-processing centres in September.

He held talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other high-ranking officials in Tehran.

The purpose of his Iran visit in October, according to Pakistan's government, was to "promote peace and security in the region".

Washington blames Iran for the attacks, a claim Tehran denies.

Updated: December 16, 2019 11:12 AM

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