US embassy cables: Pakistani relations with Saudis 'strained'
Thursday, 16 October 2008, 10:16
C O N F I D E N T I A L RIYADH 001541
EO 12958 DECL: 10/15/2018
TAGS PREL, PTER, SA, PK
SUBJECT: PAKISTANI RELATIONS WITH SAUDIS "STRAINED"
REF: A. (A) ISLAMABAD 3249 B. (B) RIYADH 1510 C. (C) RIYADH 1175 D. (D) ISLAMABAD 2405
Classified By: CDA David Rundell, reasons 1.4 b & d.
1. (C) SAUDIS UNHAPPY WITH ZARDARI: Echoing Pakistani interlocutors in Washington and Islamabad, in an introductory call with PolCouns, Pakistani DCM Sarfraz Khanzada (protect) characterized Saudi-Pakistani relations as "under strain." This was due, he said, to a lack of Saudi confidence in the Zardari government. He cited a sharp reduction in Saudi financial assistance to Pakistan, and said that the Saudis had not provided "a single drop" of oil at the concessionary terms promised last year (refs c & d). Instead, during 2008, the Saudis had provided assistance in the form of a single $300 million check, considerably less than in previous years, but "beggars can't be choosers," he lamented. Khanzada opined that the Saudi government appeared to be "waiting for the Zardari government to fall."
2. (C) NAWAS FAVORED: Khanzada said the Pakistanis are convinced that Saudi King Abdallah would prefer to see Pakistan run by former PM Nawas Sharif, and were cutting back assistance to Pakistan to hasten this eventuality. Nawas "practically lives" in Saudi Arabia, Khanzada declared, claiming that Nawas had even been favored with reserved prayer space in the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. Because Nawas' daughter is married to a grandson of King Fahd, he has "become a member of the Saudi royal family." (Comment: Embassy is not able to confirm whether this is true. End comment.)
3. (C) AFGHAN MEDIATION: Khanzada claimed that the Pakistani government was not directly informed about the Saudi Afghan mediation effort, though they suspected that Nawas had been present, since he was in Mecca at the same time. While the Pakistani government did not oppose such talks in principle, they believe they have little chance of succeeding without U.S. and Pakistani participation.
4. (C) COMMENT: Khanzada's remarks track with reporting from Islamabad and Washington regarding Pakistani concerns about deteriorating relations with the Saudis. While our Saudi interlocutors tend to be less forthcoming, they've made no secret of their reservations regarding Asif Zardari. Nevertheless, officials continue to insist that Saudi Arabia supports efforts to stabilize Pakistan, and we expect that Saudi officials will participate in the next round of meetings of the Friends of Pakistan. End comment. RUNDELL