Syria civil war: government cautioned to be careful

-File photo A girl carrying a baby inspects damage in a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday cautioned the government to be careful in cooperation with the Saudi-led 34-nation coalition against terrorism especially after the kingdom’s announcement of sending ground troops to Syria.

The committee chaired by Senator Nuzhat Sadiq was briefed by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry who assured the parliamentarians that any decision in participation of various activities of the coalition will be taken after receiving details from Saudi Arabia.

Sartaj Aziz said that there are six to seven segments of the Saudi-led coalition and various countries are participating in different activities. He said that Pakistan was still waiting for the details from Saudi Arabia and any decision with regard to participation in various activities of the coalition will be taken while keeping in view the country’s interests.

However, members of the committee voiced their concerns and said that any involvement in Syrian issue would have a negative repercussion on internal situation. They were of the view that national interests should be protected and neutrality be observed at all costs.

The committee observed that Pakistan keeps its relationship with Saudi Arabia in high esteem and intends to further strengthen the already existing ties. Committee member Mushahid Hussain Syed said that there are many issues related to coalition which need a explanation. He questioned whether the Saudi announcement to send ground troops in Syria was the kingdom’s own strategy or it is the decision of the coalition.

The question got no response, as Mushahid continued saying that the Syrian conflict is a civil war and it would not be a wise decision if Pakistan decides to participate in any level in the ongoing civil wars in certain Muslim countries. Another committee member Farhatullah Babar pointed out that United States has welcomed the Saudi decision to send ground troops to Syria and Washington would also try to exert pressure on Pakistan. “But we have to be very careful in taking any decision,” he cautioned.

Foreign Secretary said Pakistan has consistently supported all regional and international efforts to combat militancy, extremism and terrorism. He said that Pakistan welcomed the formation of 34-nation alliance to counter terrorism. He said that the 34-state coalition is a grouping of like-minded countries to fight against terrorism and extremism. However, he said the coalition’s facets of cooperation will be decided in due course through the consultative meetings among the 34 countries.

Regarding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden at Davos, the committee was informed that the Prime Minister had a trilateral meeting with US Vice President and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The foreign secretary stated that Pakistan wants peace and stability in Afghanistan and hopes that the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group will usher Afghanistan into a peaceful place, which will also contribute to the regional and global peace. He said that efforts are underway for direct talks between Afghan government and Taliban by the end of this month. He said the Afghan NDS chief and DG military also visited Pakistan which would help in enhancing the military and defence cooperation between the two countries.

Farhatullah Babar, however, emphasised that a reduction in violence in Afghanistan would be helpful for the progress in the peace process. He also enquired about the strategy against those Taliban groups who are reluctant to enter into the peace process. In his response, the Foreign Secretary said the four-nation co-ordination committee of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China has decided to give first priority to the reconciliation process.

Source: Business Recorder