ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in a ‘breakthrough’ first conversation between the two leaders in at least 15 months, the Pakistani prime minister’s special adviser on religious harmony and the Middle East, Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, said on Monday.
Khan took to Twitter on Monday to welcome the "Green Saudi Arabia" and "Green Middle East” initiatives of the Saudi crown prince, saying they complimented Pakistan’s own initiatives to battle climate change.
The crown prince had called the leaders of Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, and Sudan to discuss a massive regional tree-planting project, Saudi state news agency (SPA) reported early on Monday.
The Saudi Green Initiative is part of the prince’s Vision 2030 plan to reduce its reliance on oil revenues and improve quality of life. The crown prince unveiled the ambitious campaign on Saturday that will see Saudi Arabia planting 10 billion trees in the coming decades and working with other Arab states to plant another 40 billion trees, reduce carbon emissions and combat pollution and land degradation.
“It’s a big breakthrough after months of silence,” Ashrafi told Arab News about the two leaders' conversation. “During the conversation, prime minister Khan appreciated the green initiative of Saudi Arabia, the resumption of relations with Qatar and Saudi efforts to bring peace in Yemen.”
He said the Saudi crown prince also enquired about the health of Khan, who had tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month, while the Pakistani PM enquired about the health of Saudi King Salman.
“The exchanges of telephonic conversations at the highest level in two days showed the warmth in the relationship,” Ashrafi said. “Yesterday foreign minister talked to his Saudi counterpart and soon different high-level bilateral delegation exchanges will also start, which were stalled due to COVID-19.”
“Am delighted to learn of 'Green Saudi Arabia' & 'Green Middle East' initiatives by my brother, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman!” Khan had written on Twitter earlier on Monday. “Have offered our support on these as there are many complementarities with our 'Clean & Green Pakistan' & '10 Billion-Tree Tsunami'."
Khan was referring to his government’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami program, an ambitious five-year tree-planting project launched in 2018, with the aim of countering rising temperatures, flooding, droughts and other extreme weather in the country that scientists link to climate change.
In a letter to the crown prince, Khan said while Pakistan and Saudi Arabia already maintained close cooperation on climate change issues at multilateral forums, “a meaningful and structured bilateral engagement can help advance our shared vision and create mutually beneficial opportunities for partnership.”
He also said Pakistan would be happy to share its knowledge and experience of climate change initiatives with the kingdom.