Pakistan parliament rejects Saudi call to join Yemen coalition

Pakistan parliament rejects Saudi call to join Yemen coalition

Pakistan parliament rejects Saudi call to join Yemen coalition

Pakistani officials and media personnel gather outside the parliament house building in Islamabad on April 10, 2015. AFP Photo

Pakistan’s parliament voted on April 10 to stay out of the conflict in Yemen, rejecting Saudi demands for Islamabad to join its military coalition against Shiite Houthi rebels, while international organizations and Turkey have called for a “humanitarian cease-fire.” 

A unanimous resolution passed by a special session of parliament backed the government’s commitment to protect Saudi Arabia’s territory, which has so far not been threatened by the conflict. 

But it said Pakistan should play a mediating role and not get involved in fighting in Yemen – turning down longstanding ally Riyadh’s request for troops, ships and warplanes.

“Parliament of Pakistan ... underscores the need for continued efforts by the government of Pakistan to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis,” the resolution said. “[Parliament] desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis.”  
The motion is not binding, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said last week that any Pakistani participation would need the backing of the legislature.

It was passed after five days of debate on the Yemen crisis, in which many lawmakers urged Sharif not to send Pakistani forces to join the fight.

The coalition of largely Sunni Muslim countries led by Riyadh has been hitting Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen with air strikes in a bid to restore the government of fugitive President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia has vowed to bomb the rebels, who it says are backed by Tehran, into surrender to prevent them establishing a pro-Iran state on its doorstep.

Islamabad found itself in an awkward position on Yemen. It has deep military and religious ties to Saudi 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, with violence against minority Shiites on the rise at home in recent years.

Moreover, the large Pakistani military is stretched, maintaining a heavy presence on the border with arch-rival India as well as fighting against Taliban militants in the northwest.

Instead, Pakistan has pushed diplomatic efforts in the past week, holding talks with Turkish and Iranian officials to try to forge a way ahead.

The Pakistani resolution urged the government to begin work in the U.N. Security Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) bloc to bring about a ceasefire.

Elaborating on the Yemeni crisis on April 10, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said mediation was one the elements of Turkish foreign policy and the country aims to maintain confidence among disputed countries through trilateral mechanisms.

Turkey is pursuing dialogue between Riyadh and Tehran following a consensus reached during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent visit to Iran.   

“We agreed with Iran for cooperation in these issues. Now we are in touch with Gulf countries as well. We’ll continue our talks,” Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference with his Sudanese counterpart, Ali Ahmet Karti. 

Roles fall to countries such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia to facilitate a cease-fire in Yemen, deliver humanitarian aid, launch negotiations with the participation of all sides and maintain an inclusive administration in the country, the minister said.

 “There are countries responsible for the current situation in Yemen,” Çavuşoğlu said, noting that the Turkish leaders “openly discussed this issue in Tehran,” during the visit of Erdoğan.

Turkey has made efforts to facilitate international efforts to reach a “humanitarian pause” both in air strikes by Saudi Arabia and in fighting by Houthis, a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Çavuşoğlu might conduct a meeting with his Iranian counterpart or just conduct phone calls between the parties, the official said.