Islamabad – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday for talks after Pakistani parliament refused to send forces to help a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Nawaz Sharif is travelling with a powerful delegation including army chief Raheel Sharif, defence minister Khawaja Asif and other senior officials.
A statement from his office said the one-day trip was to discuss the war in Yemen.
The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said the Pakistani delegation arrived at a military airport where they were received by Deputy Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef and Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman who also holds the powerful post of chief of the royal court.
SPA gave no more details.
A Saudi-led coalition conducted a 27-day campaign of air strikes in Yemen aimed at halting the advance of Houthi rebels and their allies.
On Tuesday night the coalition said it was starting a new phase aiming to resume Yemen’s political process, deliver aid and fight “terrorism”, as air strikes continued.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan has remained ostensibly neutral in the war.
The Houthis, allied with army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, are fighting forces on the side of coalition-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government has sought refuge in Riyadh.
Pakistan’s parliament earlier this month unanimously voted against complying with Saudi Arabia’s request for troops, warplanes and ships.
Parliament said Pakistan should instead play a mediating role.
The country has deep military ties with Saudi Arabia and has long benefited from the oil-rich kingdom’s largesse.
But it has been reluctant to become ensnared in a conflict with sectarian overtones while violence against minorities rises at home.
Some analysts see Sharif’s trip as an attempt to pacify the Saudi royal family, with whom he has close personal ties after they sheltered him during his years in exile.