Pakistan says it has made it clear to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that Islamabad cannot recognise Israel until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
“I categorically presented Pakistan’s stance on Israel to the UAE’s foreign minister that we will not and cannot establish a relationship with Israel until a concrete and permanent solution to the Palestine issue is found,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in the central city of Multan on Monday.
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Qureshi’s statement came days after his visit to the UAE, which was seen by many as crucial amid rumours that Islamabad had secretly sent a messenger to Israel.
Islamabad denied the reports, which appeared mainly in the Israeli media.
Responding to questions regarding reports about alleged pressure from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf states for recognition of Israel, Qureshi said he explained to his UAE counterpart the “depth of emotions and feelings Pakistanis have about Palestine and Kashmir”.
The UAE foreign minister, he contended, “fully understood our feelings” on the two issues.
Rebuffing reports about pressure on Islamabad to recognise Israel, he said, “Number one, there will be no pressure on us nor there is. Number two, we have to make decisions keeping Pakistan’s interests in view and not because of any pressure. We have a policy and we are still steadfast on it.”
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had “time and again clarified there is no pressure on us in this regard”.
Khan made headlines last month when he revealed that Islamabad had been under pressure from some “friendly” nations to recognise Israel.
Although he stopped short of naming the countries despite being repeatedly asked whether they were Muslim or non-Muslim countries, many believe the Pakistani leader was referring to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The UAE, Bahrain and Morocco recently established diplomatic and economic relations with Israel, while reports suggest some other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, are also weighing the options to normalise ties.
In recent years, Pakistan’s relations with its traditional Gulf allies have come under strain due to Islamabad’s “neutrality” on several issues, including the war in Yemen and the blockade on Qatar imposed by a Saudi Arabia-led Arab alliance.
Riyadh also appears to be irked by criticism from Islamabad over its lukewarm stance on Pakistan’s longstanding dispute with India over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, claimed in full by both the South Asian neighbours.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry, in a statement on Sunday, said Qureshi also raised the issue of visa restrictions on Pakistani nationals in the meeting with his UAE counterpart.
He said Qureshi was assured the visa restrictions were “temporary” and were imposed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, the UAE stopped issuing new visas to citizens of 13 mostly-Muslim countries. The decision took effect on November 18 and included citizens from Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, and Iran.