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September 3, 2018

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Ties with US to begin afresh: FM

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has sent a loud and clear message to the United States that Pakistan wants to restore and improve bilateral relations but these have to be based on mutual trust and self-respect.

He was speaking to the media Sunday night in response to an announcement from Washington that $300 million in Coalition Support Funds (CSF) to Pakistan had been suspended for failing to take a decisive action against the militants.

“The $300 million was not any funding or aid for Pakistan. There is nothing new in this announcement. This amount belonged to Pakistan which we have spent from our own funds for a better Pakistan in the fight against terror.

The US was supposed to reimburse this amount and Inshallah we’ll put our views across when the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo arrives on September 5,” he said.

Qureshi said it was necessary to put across the views of Pakistan after the reaction here in the aftermath of Washington’s recent announcement.

Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Kone Faulkner said, “Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed”.

“When we sit down to talk, we hear them out with great respect and also put across our views. We will find ways and means to go forward at a time when bilateral relations are non-existent”, he said.

Qureshi disclosed that when he took over as foreign minister, relations with the US were at the lowest ebb; there was no engagement or talks going on and it appeared in fact that they were ‘non-existent’.

“But now with the visit of the US Secretary of State we have an opening and a beginning can be made, and we will try to build consensus on areas of mutual interest.

It is our shared objective to cleanse the region and the world of terrorism,” he added.

Qureshi pointed to the countless sacrifices that the men in uniform and innocent civilians had given in the fight against terrorism.

To a query about the recent visit to the General Headquarters (GHQ) by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet ministers, the foreign minister pointed to the narrative of civilian-military divide.

“The meeting was in national interest and held in a very good environment. The prime minister had a very good meeting and he was very well-received. We were briefed about the internal and external challenges that Pakistan faces and steps proposed to counter threats,” he said.

To a query about the controversy of a phone call by the French president to the prime minister, Qureshi said no such call had been made so far but both will speak to each other on Monday (today).

He did remark that the prime minister was unable to speak earlier because he was busy in a meeting.

On another urgent matter of Pakistan’s decision to close down its consulate in Afghanistan, the minister said this was a matter of some concern and would be raised when he spoke to the Afghan Foreign Minister on Monday.

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