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Erdogan unsurprised 'Saudis pressured Pakistan' into quitting Malaysia summit

Turkish president says Riyadh threatened to repatriate Pakistani workers and put financial pressure on Islamabad
Leaders and senior representatives from some 20 Muslim nations, including Erdogan, have gathered in Kuala Lumpur (AFP)

Turkey's president has said he is unsurprised about reports that Saudi Arabia pressured Pakistan not to attend a summit for Muslim leaders in Malaysia this week, adding it was not the first time that Riyadh had threatened Islamabad.

Middle East Eye reported on Tuesday that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had cancelled the visit after being summoned to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Leaders and senior representatives from some 20 Muslim nations have gathered in Kuala Lumpur this week to discuss issues agitating Muslims globally.

Pakistan's Khan cancels trip to Malaysia under pressure from Saudi Arabia
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Explaining its decision to stay away, Saudi Arabia said the summit was the wrong forum for matters of importance to the world's 1.75 billion Muslims.

However, some analysts suspect the kingdom feared being diplomatically isolated by regional rivals Iran, Qatar and Turkey, who are attending.

Speaking to reporters in the Malysian capital on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "This isn't the first time that the Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi administrations have taken such an attitude. 

"Unfortunately, we observe that Saudi Arabia is putting pressure on Pakistan. See, there are [Saudi] promises to Pakistan regarding its central bank."

As MEE reported last year, the Pakistani government was in a dire financial position before securing a $6bn bailout from Saudi Arabia. 

“We were facing really hard times,” Khan admitted at that time.

"Beyond everything else, there are four million Pakistan workers in Saudi Arabia," said Erdogan.

"They [Saudi Arabia] tell them that 'we can send them back, and instead take Bangladeshis'.

"On the other hand, regarding the central bank, they tell [Pakistan] that they could withdraw their money. And following similar threats, Pakistan, which is facing harsh economic conditions, found itself in a position to take such [a decision not to attend the summit]."

'International platform'

Khan is thought to have been among the original leaders who suggested that the Kuala Lumpur summit take place, during talks with Erdogan and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Pakistani prime minister is reported to have telephoned Mahathir to inform him of his decision not to attend.

Muslim leaders gather in Malaysia for summit shunned by Saudi Arabia
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The Kuala Lumpur summit describes itself as "an international platform for Muslim leaders, intellectuals and scholars from around the world to discuss and exchange ideas about the issues revolving in the Muslim world".

Saudi Arabia is understood to have been concerned that moves might have begun at the Malaysia summit to form a new body to replace the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which is headquartered in Jeddah.

Mahathir, at 94 the world's oldest prime minister, has denied those accusations.

"But thank God that [Saudi Arabia and the UAE] can't knock on our door much. It is all about your posture," said Erdogan.

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