Pakistan's top diplomat says he is skipping a meeting of foreign ministers from the world's leading Islamic organization in the United Arab Emirates to protest the host's decision to invite India, a non-member.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s announcement that he won’t be attending the inaugural session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi amid soaring tensions this week with archrival India.
The escalation between the nuclear-armed rivals over the disputed region of Kashmir has brought them close to the brink of an all-out conflict.
Qureshi told Parliament on Friday he decided to stay away from the OIC gathering after UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan refused to withdraw the invitation to India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Qureshi says India is neither a member of the 57-nation organization nor has observer status.
Pakistan’s civil aviation authority says the country’s air space remains closed for all domestic and international flights because of continuing tensions with neighboring India.
In a statement, the agency said the government decision about the closure of the air space will remain effective until 1 p.m. on Friday, after which authorities will announce whether they are reopening it or keeping the airspace closed.
Islamabad closed its air space on Wednesday after saying that Pakistan’s military had shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot, escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. The pilot is expected to be handed back to India later in the day, a move that could de-escalate the crisis.
The closing of Pakistan’s airspace forced may airlines to reshuffle their flights, causing problems for passengers.
Pakistan is preparing to hand over a captured Indian pilot as shelling continued for a third night across the disputed Kashmir border even as the two nuclear-armed neighbors seek to defuse the most serious confrontation in two decades.
Tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers face off against each other along the disputed Himalayan border known as the Line of Control in one of the world most volatile regions.
Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday. Pakistan retaliated, shooting down two Indian aircraft and capturing a pilot.
World leaders have scrambled to head off an all-out war on the Asian subcontinent.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister is expected in Islamabad later Friday.