Pakistan said it has made it clear to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that Islamabad cannot recognize Israel until a “concrete and permanent settlement” of the Palestinian issue.
“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,” country’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in the northeastern Multan city.
Qureshi’s explanation came just a day after his visit to the UAE, which was seen by many as “crucial” amid rumors that Islamabad had secretly sent a messenger to Tel Aviv. Islamabad has already denied the reports, mainly from 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 had 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 recognize 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.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan, he went on to argue, had the time and again clarified that “there is no pressure on us in this regard.”
The Pakistani prime minister made headlines last month when he revealed that Islamabad had been under pressure from some “friendly” nations to recognize Israel.
Although he stopped short of naming them despite being repeatedly asked whether they were Muslim or non-Muslim countries, many believe Imran Khan was referring to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco have recently established diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. Some other Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, are also weighing options to normalize relations.
In recent years, Pakistan’s ties with the traditional Gulf allies have taken a hit due to its “neutrality” on several issues, including the war in Yemen and the blockade of Qatar by a Saudi-led Arab alliance.
Riyadh also seems irked by criticism from Islamabad over its lukewarm stance on the long-standing Kashmir dispute.
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry, in a statement on Sunday, said the foreign minister in a meeting with his UAE counterpart also raised the issue of visa restrictions on Pakistani nationals.
The minister, he said, was assured that the visa restrictions were temporary in nature 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 Nov. 18 and included citizens from Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, and Iran.