JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia and Pakistan signed agreements Saturday to improve ties, after months of strained relations between the close allies over the disputed region of Kashmir.
Although the kingdom was the first foreign country Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan visited after his 2018 election, Riyadh appeared frustrated with Islamabad last year.
And while the wealthy nation has supported Pakistan with billions of dollars in aid and loans in recent years, observers say the kingdom is also keen not to upset India, a key business partner and importer of Saudi oil.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Khan, who arrived Friday for a three-day visit, held talks in which they stressed “the importance of expanding and intensifying the horizons of cooperation”.
The country’s state news agency added officials from both countries signed two agreements in the western city of Jeddah addressing the treatment of criminals, and crime.
They also agreed on two memorandums of understanding around combating drug trafficking; as well as financing energy, infrastructure, transportation, water and communications projects.
The nations also agreed to establish a higher coordination council.
During his trip, Khan – who has visited six times, most recently in December 2019 – will focus on improving ties with Riyadh and the needs of the roughly 2.5 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia.
Last year, the kingdom recalled US$1 billion of a US$3 billion loan to cash-strapped Pakistan, and an expired multi-billion-dollar oil credit facility to Islamabad has not been renewed, a diplomatic source told AFP in September.
Prior to that, Pakistan rebuffed calls to send ground troops to support the troubled Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.