Pakistan ‘categorically’ rejects reports about recognising Israel

Pakistan foreign office rejects ‘baseless speculation’, as it says the country ‘steadfastly’ supports Palestinian self-determination.

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s foreign ministry has reiterated the country is not considering recognising the state of Israel, in line with existing policy, according to a statement, even as Arab allies have moved to do so.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Pakistani foreign ministry spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri “categorically rejected baseless speculation regarding possibility of recognition of the State of Israel by Pakistan”.

“Pakistan steadfastly supports the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination,” said the statement, which was in line with the country’s position on the conflict.

“For just and lasting peace, it is imperative to have a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions, with the pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State.”

Questions have been raised on whether Pakistan would join Arab allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who moved to normalise relations with Israel in September. A first Bahraini delegation visited Israel last week.

On Monday, Israeli media reported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had secretly travelled to Saudi Arabia a day earlier for talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Saudi’s foreign minister, however, denied the report and Netanyahu’s office did not comment on it.

Since September, US President Donald Trump’s administration has brokered agreements with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan to normalise their relations with Israel.

Palestine-Israel conflict

Earlier this month, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared to confirm there was pressure on Pakistan to also sign such an agreement.

“Several things we cannot say because we have good relations with [countries] and we do not wish to upset them,” Khan said in an interview with local media, responding to a question on whether Pakistan was facing such pressure. “God willing, let our country stand on its own two feet and then you can ask me such questions.”

Khan also reiterated Pakistan’s stance on the Palestine-Israel conflict in that interview, saying there was no change to it.

“For me there has never been a second thought on this,” he said. “We cannot accept Israel because […] until Palestinians are not given a just settlement, as in a settlement which they accept, we cannot accept [Israel].”Analysts say there is external pressure on Pakistan to recognise Israel, but there has also been an internal debate on the question for more than 10 years.

“There may be some suggestion from other countries for Pakistan to recognise Israel, but there is also an internal debate ongoing on this question for a very long time within the Pakistani establishment, that Pakistan should have some kind of relationship with Israel,” says Zahid Hussain, an analyst and senior journalist.

Hussain argues while Pakistan may not fully recognise Israel’s statehood, it may move to normalise ties in other ways. He says Pakistan’s military – which has directly ruled the country for roughly half of its 73-year history and continues to hold power over large parts of foreign and domestic policy – has a role to play on the issue.

“The military is very interested in that – some kind of a relationship, not necessarily to recognise it, but there is a sense that the Israeli lobby in the United States is very strong, and maybe it could help neutralise Israeli-India cooperation as well.”

Nevertheless, Hussain said there was “no question” of Pakistan formally recognising Israel at this time, although if regional ally Saudi Arabia were to do so, it “might give some encouragement to Pakistan”.



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