Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, at Al-Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah on September 19, 2018. Photo: AFP via Anadolu Agency

After Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit this week to Saudi Arabia, his government announced on Thursday that the Gulf state had been invited to be the third investor in a key segment of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry made the announcement but did not detail whether Saudi Arabia had agreed to lend money to the Pakistani government, which is struggling to cope with an accumulating debt burden.

Also on Thursday, the deputy secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said on Twitter that “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia struck an agreement worth US$10 billion,” as translated by The News. Dunya News also reported the US$10 billion deal.

Chinese investments in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have come under fire recently, as Pakistan copes with an economic crisis that has seen its foreign-exchange reserves fall to near-record lows. CPEC is an important part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, but lack of transparency and due diligence has prompted criticism, including from the recently elected Prime Minister Khan.

Earlier this month, during a visit to Pakistan by China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, the two countries reaffirmed their cooperation and also proposed inviting a third-party investor to assuage concerns about Beijing burdening Islamabad with debt.

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