TOKYO: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that the United States and Pakistan are putting past tensions behind them to focus on the future, after meeting with her Pakistani counterpart.
It was their first face-to-face meeting since the two countries last week struck a deal to re-open key supply routes into Afghanistan, closed for seven months following a US attack in which 24 Pakistani soldiers died.
Clinton told reporters in Tokyo on the sidelines of a conference on Afghanistan that she had “a broad-ranging discussion” with Hina Rabbani Khar on resolving some of the issues surrounding the re-opening of border routes.
“We are both encouraged that we have been able to put the recent difficulties behind us so we can focus on the many challenges ahead,” she said.
The killing of the soldiers, coupled with a US raid on the Pakistani compound of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, had plunged ties between the two nations to new lows.
But the two countries aimed to use the “positive momentum generated” by last week’s deal to move forward on many of the challenges still facing them, Clinton said.
Her talks with Khar had “focused on the necessity of defeating the terror networks that threaten the stability of Pakistan and Afghanistan” as well as Afghan reconciliation efforts.
“We also discussed economic support and the goal of moving towards more trade then aid as part of our economic relationship,” Clinton said.
“Obviously there’s a lot of follow-up work that has to be done. I’ve said a number of times that is a challenging and interesting relationship and it remains so,” Clinton said.
But she warned the relationship was likely to remain rocky at times.
“I have no reason to believe that it will not continue to raise hard questions for us both, but it is something I think is in the interests of the United States as well as Pakistan,” Clinton said.
Last week, Clinton said Washington was sorry for the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers, paving the way for Islamabad to agree to reopen the supply routes vital for NATO and the US to truck supplies into Afghanistan.
The border blockade had forced the United States and its allies to rely on longer, more costly routes through Central Asia, Russia and the Caucasus.
As part of the deal to reopen the borders, Washington will also release about $1.1 billion to the Pakistani military from a US “coalition support fund” designed to reimburse Pakistan for the cost of counter-insurgency operations.