Saudi Arabia seeks jets, ships, troops from Pakistan: Asif

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ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told parliament on Monday that Saudi Arabia has sought combat aircraft, ground troops and navy ships to join the coalition forces in their operation against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

To inform all sessions of the European Parliament on the situation in Yemen, Asif informed the House of the progress of the evacuation of Pakistani nationals and Saudi Arabia’s request for military aid to Pakistan.

He said the situation in Yemen had been deteriorating in recent weeks and raised several implications for Pakistan and the region.

Asif added that, given the gravity of the situation and democratic traditions, PM Nawaz decided that reflection on the subject in depth background in Parliament and this will help the government to decide on national interests that are based on consensus.

The government’s priority was to ensure the safety of Pakistani PM Nawaz and personally supervised the evacuation. A crisis unit was formed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate the evacuation. “We got up to the expectations of our nation and successfully evacuated our citizens.”

Asif thanked the support given by the government of Saudi Arabia for help in evacuating. He thanked China, which also assisting.

Commitment -‘Unflinching sovereignty’- Saudi Arabia

The minister said the government’s policy had been consistent that Pakistan would not allow the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia be threatened. Asif said the prime minister had told this repeatedly the Saudi leadership.

“The prime minister said that Pakistan attaches great importance to Saudi Arabia,” Asif said.

He said Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan for ground troops, combat aircraft and naval vessels.

“We reiterate our unwavering and steadfast commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Saudi Arabia. Any violation of the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia evoke strong response from Pakistan,” he said.

“This was our position from the start and this is what we have said about our delegation’s visit to Riyadh.”

The defense minister said that Prime Minister Sharif had also visited Turkey last week and the two countries held similar views on the subject.

He said both countries agreed that continuing crisis in Yemen could push the region into chaos. Pakistan and Turkey regard Saudi Arabia as a “brother” and pledged to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Pakistan and Turkey agreed that it is in our interest to keep the region free of turbulence,” he said.

He said Pakistan had taken an initiative to restore peace in the region.

In this sense, the Turkish president will visit Iran, while the Iranian Foreign Minister will visit Pakistan on April 8 said.

At the end of his presentation, he reiterated that any decision to Pakistan would be taken with the consent in Parliament.

“Decisions will be according to the wishes of the people of Pakistan. The government will greatly appreciate the guidance of elected representatives of Pakistan,” said Khawaja Asif.

The minister also spoke of the sacrifices rendered by our soldiers in the war against terrorism. Asif said the Pakistan Army was the only army that was fighting against terrorism in the head.

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