ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, will arrive in Islamabad on an official visit on July 27 to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues, the Pakistani foreign office said on Monday.
This will be Prince Faisal’s second state visit to Pakistan in a year. He was last in Islamabad in December 2020.
The foreign office said the Saudi foreign minister was visiting Pakistan on the invitation of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
“The two FMs will exchange views on the entire gamut of Pakistan-Saudi Arabia ties, and regional and int’l issues. Saudi FM will also call on other dignitaries,” the FO said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant on the Middle East, Tahir Ashrafi, told Arab News on Saturday “bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields would be reviewed” during the Saudi official’s visit.
“Saudi foreign minister is visiting Pakistan on July 27,” a Saudi embassy official had also confirmed, saying the visit was a continuation of “high-level engagements between the two countries which started with the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, followed by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the kingdom.”
The crown prince was in Islamabad on a high-profile visit in February 2019, during which Saudi Arabia signed investment deals with Pakistan worth over $20 billion. PM Khan visited Riyadh this May and signed several agreements on political, economic, trade, and defense cooperation.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant on the Middle East, Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, on Monday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to resume the Umrah pilgrimage for international visitors, halted earlier due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Saudi media, the Kingdom has decided to resume International Umrah from the first of the Islamic month of Muharram, likely to fall on August 10 this year.
“We welcome the decision of resumption Umran for foreign pilgrims and whatever mechanism Saudi government will devise, Pakistan will follow that,” Ashrafi told Arab News. “Pakistani ministry of religious affairs and [Saudi] Ministry of Hajj and Umrah have contacts and if there will be any issues, both will coordinate on that.”
Media reports suggested COVID-19 vaccinations would be mandatory for all pilgrims.
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis would visit Saudi Arabia every year, mainly for Umrah and Hajj, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Umrah is a pilgrimage which can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to Hajj, which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.
Saudi Arabia closed its borders last February to foreign Umrah pilgrims, and in March stopped its own citizens and residents from taking part. Last July, it allowed a limited number of domestic pilgrims to perform the Hajj. This year too, Saudi Arabia restricted the annual Hajj pilgrimage to its own citizens and residents for the second year running in response to the coronavirus pandemic.