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Saudi FM says not opposed to JeM chief's banning by UN

February 20, 2019 22:50 IST

The Saudi Arabia-Pakistan joint statement calling for avoiding 'politicisation' of the United Nations listing regime was not directed at India's efforts to get Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar banned by the global body, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said on Wednesday, asserting that anyone involved in terror should be proscribed and punished.

In an exclusive interview to PTI, the Saudi foreign minister also said his country will 'consider playing a role' to mediate and de-escalate tension between India and Pakistan if both countries want.

He rejected suggestions that the Pak-Saudi statement during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to Islamabad on Monday was against India's push to get Azhar, chief of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, which has also claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack, listed as 'global terrorist'.

 

"Any person who is a terrorist should be designated. The idea was to ensure that there is no politicisation so that people don't throw names of their political opponents as terrorists. We should not be careless about throwing names of those who are not terrorists," he said.

"I think people here assumed that the joint (Pakistan-Saudi) statement had to do with one particular individual (Azhar). It did not. The intention was that the process of designation is clear and not political," Al-Jubeir, who is in New Delhi with the Saudi Crown Prince, said.

The minister said his country follows a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and that 'anyone who supports and finances the menace must be designated and must be punished'.

Asked about rising tension between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama attack, he said Saudi Arabia believes that both countries can de-escalate and resolve issues peacefully.

"We hope tension between India and Pakistan will not escalate. You have wise leadership in both the countries represented by respective prime ministers. I believe they will be able to find a way to de-escalate," he said.

On whether Saudi Arabia will try to mediate between the two countries, he said, "We will not involve ourselves into the tensions between India and Pakistan without being invited by both the countries."

He further said,"We have good relations with both countries and if both want us to play some kind of a role, we would consider it."

On whether Saudi Arabia will intervene if India and Pakistan comes close to some kind of military confrontation, the Saudi foreign minister said the whole world will step-in in such a scenario.

"Nobody wants to see armed conflict between two nuclear powers. Nobody benefits except terrorists. I believe the leadership recognises it. It is our hope that issues can be resolved peacefully," he said.

On Pulwama attack, the Saudi Foreign Minister said it was important that those who committed this terrible terrorist act be held accountable and brought to justice.

"It is what international community wants, this is what Pakistan wants and this is what India wants."

Asked what sense he received on the issue from Islamabad during the Saudi Crown Prince's visit there, Al-Jubeir said Pakistan have said that they will investigate and pursue the matter.

"They (Pakistan) will hold people behind this attack accountable and we will have to see how it goes," he said.

Al-Jubeir felt the leadership in both Pakistan and India were sincere in improving ties with each other.

"I believe Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to have better relations with India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to have better relations with Pakistan," he said.

"The issue is how do you build trust and confidence between the two countries that will allow them to move forward in a way that protects both countries and in a way that defeats extremists groups and terrorists groups that may operate in one country or the other," he added.

On whether there was a need to put more pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror groups, the Saudi Minister said all the countries need to do everything they can to crackdown on terror groups and extremists.

"If you do not eliminate the mindset, you are not going to eliminate terrorists. You have to go after terrorists, you have to go after their funding and go after the mindset and it has to be a robust, comprehensive effort, and it has to be long-term," he said.

Earlier in the day, the Saudi Crown Prince and Modi held 'extensive and successful' talks, a day after the influential Arab leader concluded a high profile visit to Islamabad.

Asked why the Saudi Crown Prince did not condemn the Pulwama attack in his media statement after talks with Modi, Al-Jubeir did not give a direct reply, and said Saudi Arabia was the first country to condemn it.

"We condemned it very very strongly," he added.

Asked whether India raised the issue of cross-border terrorism as well as Pulwama attack during Wednesday's talks, he said, "Terrorism is an issue which is important to the relationship between the two countries."

"We have security cooperation, exchange of information, we have intelligence sharing mechanism, we have listed individuals, extradited individuals and we have foiled number of attacks which could have harmed your people and our people," he said.

Manash Pratim Bhuyan in New Delhi
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