KABUL: Pakistan on Thursday called again for an apology for a NATO cross-border strike that killed two dozen of its soldiers last year before it considers reopening supply routes to foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, speaking to reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul, also rejected reports that Pakistan was haggling with the United States over transportation fees for the supplies.
“Pakistan still wants an unconditional apology and the reassurance that the Salala type of incident does not happen again,” she said, referring to the border area where the incident took place.
The supply lines for goods shipped to Karachi and trucked to Afghanistan have been vital for US-led forces in their involvement in the landlocked country, a conflict now in its eleventh year.
Now, the routes are seen as important for the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2014.
The United States has rebuffed Pakistan’s demands for an apology for the air strike in November and last week Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States was at the limits of its patience over the existence of safe havens for militants in Pakistan who were carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.
Khar said Pakistan was not supporting any militant group and that it was doing whatever it could to advance the peace process in Afghanistan which she said must be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned.”
‘Terrible job’ on working together
Khar on Thursday accused governments of doing a “terrible job” at working together to tackle militancy in Afghanistan as she called for a more unified approach.
Khar made the remarks on the sidelines of a ministerial conference in Kabul aimed at building greater regional cooperation on Afghanistan and its future beyond the pullout of NATO forces in 2014.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says peace depends on regional cooperation to smash sanctuaries for militant networks waging violence in his country, and in his opening remarks to the conference urged Pakistan to support the peace process.
Pakistan was the Taliban’s chief diplomatic backer when the regime was in power in Afghanistan, and is accused by both Kabul and Washington of continuing to play a double game in supporting the insurgency despite its official US alliance.
Khar reiterated Pakistan’s stance that it has suffered enormously as a result of terrorism, and said a more united front was needed among international allies.
“We have been making the claim that we need to all work together to ensure that we win against them rather than they win against us,” she told reporters.
“At this point in time, if there is a policy of divide and rule they are doing a great job at it and we are doing a terrible job at combining our energy, our forces, our resources to be able to face them as one.”
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Pakistan last week that the US was running out of patience over Islamabad’s refusal to do more to eliminate hiding places for insurgents, who attack US troops fighting the 10-year war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Khar responded on Thursday by saying she was “glad we are not losing patience with anyone, despite losing 24 soldiers”.
She was referring to NATO air strikes on a Pakistani border post in November which killed 24 troops and led to Islamabad closing the ground routes through its territory used to supply coalition forces in Afghanistan.
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