Pakistan and the US are working overtime to break a lingering impasse on both the resumption of vital land supply routes for Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan as well as drone strikes inside the tribal belt.
A group of US officials, comprising economic, military and intelligence experts, has quietly been in the capital since last week discussing ways out of the ongoing deadlock with Pakistani counterparts, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The US officials, whose visit has been kept away from the media glare, had already held a series of discussions with concerned authorities in Pakistan.
However, it is not yet clear if the two sides are close to striking a deal on key issues.
One Pakistan official, who was regularly briefed on the subject, revealed that the deadlock still persists primarily on two issues: An unconditional apology over last year’s Nato air strikes on Salala and a halt in the drone campaign.
He said Washington had made abundantly clear that it would not offer an unconditional apology – which is one of the main demands by Parliament. The other contentious issue is the refusal to review the CIA-led drone campaign. “The talks are currently frozen,” added the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the subject.
The stalemate will lessen the chances of Pakistan’s participation in the Nato summit scheduled for later this month in Chicago, the official said. He maintained that a team of US officials would have more meetings over the weekend in an attempt to find some middle ground.
A US official said discussions were aimed at reopening of supply routes but did not say how much time the two sides would take to finalise a deal.
When approached, the foreign ministry did not confirm the presence of US officials in the capital or their negotiations.
However, the US Embassy confirmed that discussions were continuing. “We continue to talk together on the full range of bilateral issues. Some of the team members who came last week with Ambassador Grossman have remained here for ongoing discussions,” Mark Stroh told The Express Tribune.
Meanwhile, another civil-military huddle is expected in the next 48 hours as part of efforts to finalise a work plan for the implementation of new foreign policy terms approved by the Parliament last month.
Top civil and military leaders already have had three sessions in two weeks, but have not made any headway.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.