KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said his country will not recognize Israel until the Palestine issue is resolved.

In an interview with local broadcaster Dunya News on the completion of his two years in office, Khan said that Islamabad will not follow suit in recognizing Israel as a state, in a thinly veiled reference to the UAE which struck a deal last week to normalize ties with Israel.

“Our stand about Israel is very clear. It is the same that the founder of nation, Quaid-I-Azam had,” he said, referring to Mohammad Ali Jinnah who had time and again advocated unwavering support for Palestinians.

“We cannot recognize Israel until Palestinians get their right, which should be in line with the two-state solution,” he went on to say.

“If we recognize Israel, then we should give up Kashmir as well. Both issues have a similar background,” he noted.

Other Arab nations with diplomatic ties with Israel are Egypt and Jordan.

Ties with Saudi Arabia

Responding to a series of questions about icy relations with longtime ally Saudi Arabia over the Kashmir dispute, Khan dispelled the reports as “baseless”.

“Saudi Arabia is our key ally. It has always helped us in trying times. There is no issue in relations with Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Commenting on Riyad’s reported lukewarm reaction to the situation in disputed Jammu and Kashmir, he said: “Saudi Arabia has its own foreign policy, and we have ours. They have to follow their foreign policy. We should not think that it should do what we wish.”

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi asked the Riyadh-dominated Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to stop dilly-dallying on convening a meeting on Kashmir, where the human rights situation has been deteriorating particularly over the last year.

Pakistan last month had to borrow $1 billion from China to repay part of a $3-billion loan from Saudi Arabia to prop up Islamabad’s depleting foreign reserves.

The Finance Ministry last week confirmed that Riyadh was reviewing Islamabad’s request for an extension of the $3-billion oil credit facility, which ended in July.

Remittances sent by expatriates in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states play a major role in shoring up Pakistan’s depleting foreign reserves.

Saudi Arabia, where 1.9 million Pakistanis reside, tops the list of countries with the highest remittances to Pakistan at more than $4.5 billion annually, followed by the UAE, with an excess of $3.47 billion, according to official statistics.

Thanks to Erdogan

Khan thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for helping Pakistan dodge a huge penalty in a litigation involving a Turkish power company last year.

“President Erdogan helped us save a $1.2-billion penalty,” he said, referring to a penalty imposed by the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on Pakistan in its litigation with Turkish power company Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretim (KKEU).

The Turkish firm was one of 12 rental power companies, which had been awarded contracts by the government in 2008-09 to meet the country’s increasing power requirements.

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