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October 13, 2017

Deadlock in Pak-US ties ends as both sides agree to continue talks

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October 13, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Successful meetings by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in Washington last month broke the ice and resulted in an interagency US delegation visiting Islamabad on Thursday, where both sides have "agreed to continue discussions on all matters of mutual interest and a continuation of bilateral engagements at all levels”.

It is expected that this US interagency delegation is here to prepare for a visit later this month by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who will also visit New Delhi. The US delegation is led by Ms. Lisa Curtis, Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for South Asia.

Ms Curtis was accompanied by Acting Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense David Helvey and other senior officials from Departments of State, Defense and the US Embassy in Islamabad.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua led the Pakistani side which included senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant departments. "Noting that the US had a long track record of cooperation with Pakistan, the US delegation emphasised the importance of reinvigorating the bilateral relationship in order to achieve the common objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region", spokesman at the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Previously, attempts by President Trump to humiliate and threaten Pakistan over its Afghan policy saw such a strong reaction here that Washington was bound to take two steps back. Added to this a strong message earlier from Islamabad that US officials planning to visit should postpone their visit increased tensions between the two governments. This was a reality check for Washington and the intended visit of of Alice Wells, had to be rescheduled.

Thursday's meeting at the Foreign Office saw a review of the state of play in the relationship in the wake of the US strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia and "reiterating Pakistan's stance for a politically negotiated settlement owned and led by the Afghans, the foreign secretary reaffirmed Pakistan's constructive participation in all regional and bilateral mechanisms aimed at pursuing a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict", said the spokesman.

The US delegation was also informed on the recent visit by Pakistani officials to Kabul to intensify engagement and address mutual concerns, particularly border management and repatriation of refugees.

Highlighting Pakistan's ongoing law enforcement and counter terrorism  campaign, the foreign secretary apprised the US delegation of Pakistan's efforts in eliminating terrorism from the Pakistani soil. Pakistan's concerns on continued attacks from across the border were also shared. 

The US delegation also called on Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif who while in Washington had asked the US to pinpoint Afghan Taliban safe havens inside Pakistan and went a step further and suggested a joint operation against the militants. There has been no public reaction either from Washington or Kabul on this proposal.

"The US delegation was informed about the atrocities and human rights violations being committed by the Indian forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir resulting in hundreds of casualties. It was noted that persistent Indian refusal to engage with Pakistan despite Pakistan's repeated overtures for a comprehensive dialogue was adversely impacting regional stability", added the spokesman.

Meanwhile, the US delegation comprising Ms. Lisa Curtis, Ambassador Alice G. Wells, Ambassador David Hale and other representatives called on Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Thursday.

The delegation briefed the COAS on the contours of US strategy in South Asia, says an ISPR press release. Discussion focused on regional security situation including Afghanistan and how Pakistan has positively contributed towards peace and stability in the region.

The COAS highlighted concerns of Pakistan regarding peace and stability in the region. He reiterated that Pakistan has done its best despite constraints and shall continue its efforts for the sake of the future of Pakistan and in line with the aspirations of Pakistani people. The delegation appreciated and acknowledged Pak Army's contributions and Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror.

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