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Saudi Arabia “rejects” Imran Khan’s call for the ICO to meet in Kashmir

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia is reluctant to accept Pakistan’s request to immediately convene a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (ICO) on Kashmir, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported Thursday.

Amid Islamabad’s growing concern about not being able to get support for the ICO CFM meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan had expressed frustration over the silence of the 57-member block of Muslim countries in Kashmir while speaking in a think tank during his recent visit to Malaysia.

“The reason is that we have no voice and there is a total division between us. We cannot even meet as a whole at the ICO meeting in Kashmir, “he said.

Pakistan has been pushing for a meeting of ICO Foreign Affairs Ministers since India revoked Kashmir’s special status in August last year. Underlining the importance of the CFM meeting, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had recently said at a press conference that it was necessary to send a clear message from the ummah on the issue of Kashmir.

For any movement in the ICO, Riyadh’s support is considered essential as the agency is dominated by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

The kingdom reportedly made several proposals to Pakistan to avoid the CFM, including holding a parliamentary forum or a conference of speakers from Muslim countries and a joint meeting on the affairs of Palestine and Kashmir, but Islamabad has stuck to its proposal of an MFC meeting. After Islamabad’s refusal to attend the Kuala Lumpur summit under Saudi pressure, Riyadh had shown some flexibility in Pakistan’s proposal.

He sent his chancellor to thank Pakistan for staying away from the event in Malaysia, but that flexibility was short-lived and Riyadh soon returned to his position at the MFC in Kashmir.

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