Visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia as part of his Gulf tour this weekend.

Sharif held a meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan as part of his visit to the United Arab Emirates.

He arrived in Abu Dhabi on Saturday on his first visit to the United Arab Emirates, the second leg of his Gulf tour, which took him to Saudi Arabia.

The two leaders, who met at Qasr Al Shati’ Palace, “discussed the advancement of the long-standing relationship between the two nations and the prospects for propelling cooperation on various fronts, as well as a number of regional and international issues of common interest”. according to the official Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Sheikh Mohamed wished the newly elected Prime Minister “success in leading Pakistan towards further progress and prosperity in the coming period”.

The Crown Prince hailed the “historic relations” between the two nations and the “valuable contributions” made by the Pakistani community to the UAE.

The Pakistani Prime Minister thanked Sheikh Mohamed for the warm welcome, hailed the UAE’s “great support” to his country in the field of development and stressed its keenness to strengthen bilateral relations in various fields.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia said on Sunday they would discuss extending the term of a $3 billion loan to help Islamabad’s ailing economy.

The Gulf nation has long been an intelligence partner of Pakistan as well as a regular source of financial aid for successive governments.

The latest sign of support follows a visit to Saudi Arabia by new Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who inherited a crushing national debt, soaring inflation and a weak rupee.

A joint statement said the kingdom would continue to support Pakistan’s economy and had discussed “increasing the $3 billion deposit with the central bank through a term extension or otherwise”.

Saudi Arabia has also pledged to “further strengthen financing for petroleum products” at a time when the South Asian country is suffering from frequent power cuts.

The statement comes after recent talks between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on releasing funds under an existing $6 billion aid package that had stalled due to concerns over the pace of reforms.

The cash-strapped country’s foreign exchange reserves plunged below $11 billion last month.

“What little financial aid we can get from any country would help us given the state of our economy,” Dr Kaiser Bengali, a veteran economist, told AFP.

“But how long are we going to run our economy with loans? This policy won’t even work for the next five years.”

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has provided Pakistan with $4.2 billion in support in the form of $3 billion in loans deposited with the central bank as well as $1.2 billion in deferred oil payments.

As Sharif wrapped up his visit, Pakistani Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said he would stay in Riyadh to hold “technical-level talks”.

Sharif was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan on April 11, succeeding Imran Khan, who was ousted in a vote of no confidence in Parliament.

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