PESHAWAR: Pakistan allowed four containers of office supplies for the US embassy in Kabul to cross into Afghanistan for the first time following a six-month blockade, officials said on Friday.
The trucks were permitted to cross as President Asif Ali Zardari prepares to meet Nato leaders at a key summit in Chicago, accepting a last-minute invitation after his foreign minister indicated Pakistan was willing to call time on the blockade.
Islamabad closed its Afghan border crossings to Nato supplies on November 26 when US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, leaving hundreds of containers of international supplies stranded at the port in Karachi and plunging relations with Washington to a new low.
The four trucks of US embassy supplies crossed Pakistan’s northwest Torkham border into Afghanistan, the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release the information to the media.
“I can’t give you the exact number but a lot more will go to Afghanistan in coming days. These all are diplomatic shipments, I mean non-Nato supplies,” one of the officials said.
In Kabul, the US embassy said it could not confirm the shipment.
There were conflicting accounts of when the trucks crossed, with one source saying they began moving earlier in the week and another saying they passed through on Friday.
Almost 300 containers of US embassy supplies, including stationery, computers and printers, are understood to have been stranded in Pakistan by the blockade.
Pakistan and US officials are still negotiating rules, fees and logistics for resuming the Nato transit lines, and Islamabad has not said when Nato supplies will resume.
Supply trucks crossing have nothing to do with Nato supply
A US Embassy spokesperson in Islamabad confirmed that ‘a few non-NATO containers carrying diplomatic cargo’ were permitted to cross into Afghanistan at Torkham border on Friday.
However, Mark Stroh made clear that the permission had nothing to do with the resumption of NATO supplies suspended since November last year following the Salala incident.
“NATO supply routes remained blocked,” he added.
But the brief opening of land routes is being seen as a prelude to eventual resumption of supplies for the western forces stationed in Afghanistan.
A foreign office official said the ‘diplomatic courier’ had no linkage with the Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs) but acknowledged that it was a sign of easing of tensions between the two countries.
An American diplomat claimed that under the Vienna Convention Pakistan should not have stopped ‘diplomatic shipments’ in the first place when shutting down supply lines.
Though, Islamabad recently has given green light for lifting of blockade, the two countries are still negotiating new terms and conditions under which NATO containers would pass through the country.
Both the Pakistani and American officials have said that the deal is expected to be finalised very soon.