The country’s top leadership is contemplating reopening inland supply routes for international forces stationed in Afghanistan after the US appears to be softening its stance on offering an apology for last year’s attacks on border posts.
Civilian and military leaders huddled here Friday evening to decide how they should respond to fresh signals emerging from Washington suggesting some flexibility on the US’ new position on coming up with ‘something similar to an apology’.
Little details of the meeting emerged and hardly anything was shared with the media officially. Insiders told The Express Tribune, however, that there were anticipations of a breakthrough within weeks.
Chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari, the huddle was attended by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam, among others.
The meeting thoroughly discussed different aspects of Pakistan-US relations, focusing particularly on the reopening of Nato supply routes.
Participants of the meeting were told that the US administration had begun showing some flexibility over an apology.
“The matter is likely to be sorted out soon. A breakthrough is what we expect in weeks to come,” an official seeking anonymity said.
He said that Pakistan had made it clear to the US that an apology was the main hurdle and the new tax amount for Nato trucks and containers was no longer relevant, especially after Washington’s refusal to go beyond $500 per vehicle in response to Islamabad’s demand for a much higher sum.
However, the US was ready to bear the cost of repairing broken and damaged roads and highways used by thousands of Nato trucks before the routes’ closure, the official said. In recent weeks, media reports from Washington have suggested that Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman was working overtime to convince US administration officials to offer an apology for last year’s Salala attack – a move likely to provide some face-saving for Islamabad.
The meeting took place on the heels of an interaction between Khar and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, on the sidelines of a conference in Kabul.
During a congressional committee hearing in Washington this week, US senator Dianne Feinstein appeared to endorse Pakistan’s demand for an apology but with the condition that Islamabad should lower its demand for tariff rates on supplies.
“It is my view that Pakistan will lower the cost, but they want an apology,” a report in The New York Times quoted her as saying.
Pakistan had closed the Nato supply routes in November last year in retaliation to the Nato attack on posts in Salala, which resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani troops.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2012.
More in PakistanBalochistan Assembly: Public accounts committee needed