Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday told the National Assembly that it was incorrect to say that Pakistan’s policy towards Syria had changed under pressure from Saudi Arabia. Mr. Aziz also said Pakistan was not planning to supply arms to Syrian rebels.
His clarification comes after a controversy erupted over a joint statement issued at the end of the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz to Pakistan earlier this month. On Monday in the National Assembly members wanted to know why the country had changed its stance towards Syria. The joint statement on February 17, said among other things, that “The two sides reiterated the need for finding of a quick solution of the existing conflict in Syria according to Geneva I Resolution in order to restore peace and security in Syria and prevent bloodshed. In this regard both sides called for the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers enabling it to take charge of the affairs of the country, apart from the immediate withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and elements from Syrian territory and lifting of the siege of the Syrian towns and villages and stopping aerial and artillery bombardment.”
Mr. Aziz said he rejected the charge that by demanding a transitional governing body in Syria, Pakistan had changed its foreign policy. He said the demand was made in keeping with the communiqué issued by the UN Backed Action Group for Syria in Geneva on June 30, 2012 which called for the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers that could include members of the government and opposition, and should be formed on the basis of mutual consent.
“We have issued a statement identical to the consensus document adopted by the international community and there is no change in our written position on Syria. Our policy is neutral,” he said, adding that reports of a change were misleading.
He also rejected news reports that Pakistan may supply arms to Syrian opposition. As it is a responsible state it demanded end user certification among a host of other things if it was selling arms. News reports had said that Pakistan was considering a plan of arming Syrian rebels under pressure from Saudi Arabia which was also denied by the Foreign Office.
He said that various matters were discussed during the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince including defence cooperation. He said he wished to correct the impression that Pakistan had changed its foreign policy under pressure. “There was nothing new in the joint statement issued with Saudi Arabia and it was in keeping with our declared position on Syria,” he added.
However, Opposition members Naveed Qamar and Shireen Mazari said that Pakistan had observed strict neutrality on Syria and demanding a transitional governing body was tantamount to interfering in the internal affairs of a country. Mr. Qamar said Pakistan was calling for a regime change and opposing military operations in other countries at a time when its own military was conducting air strikes on terrorists.
He said the country should get its own house in order before interfering in the affairs of others.
Dr. Mazari said earlier Pakistan had a principled stand and it had demanded a transitional authority. The government had moved away from its position of neutrality towards Syria, she said.