ISLAMABAD: US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke has reiterated long-term commitment of his country to strategic partnership with Pakistan, saying that the Obama administration is conscious of the need for creating economic opportunity for the Pakistani people in their fight against militancy.
He expressed the determination to strengthen relations between the two countries in all areas, including trade, economic growth and development.
Holbrooke separately called on President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani in Islamabad on Saturday. President Zardari also hosted a dinner in his honour at the Aiwan-e-Sadr.
Holbrooke noted that Pak-US meetings of seven out of 11 tracks had successfully been held while the remaining track meetings were scheduled to be held before July 10 to prepare agenda for the fifth round of Strategic Dialogue between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on July 19. He expressed his country’s understanding of major security and economic challenges being faced by Pakistan and assured of full US support to help it overcome them.
Holbrooke said a meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan scheduled for July 7 in Islamabad would be used by the US to impress upon donor countries to fulfil their aid commitments to Pakistan without further delay.
Holbrooke said President Obama and Secretary Clinton were personally pursuing Pakistan’s case for Reconstruction Opportunity Zone (ROZ) legislation at the Capitol Hill by interacting with Congressional leaders.
At the same time, the US government was continuing its lobbying efforts with European and Far Eastern countries for grant of enhanced market access to Pakistani products. He acknowledged the fact that the US itself had lagged behind in timely reimbursement of Pakistan’s Coalition Support Fund (CSF) claims. However, he held out an assurance that all measures would be taken by the US to expedite these payments for assuaging Pakistan’s economic difficulties.
President Obama’s emissary welcomed the restoration of dialogue between Pakistan and India, saying that the US was looking forward to forthcoming meetings between the two countries.
He agreed with Pakistan’s point of view that the two countries should coordinate their efforts and help the Afghan government in its peace process. He appreciated the role of the Pakistan Army and law-enforcement agencies which had suffered more than 4,000 casualties in their fight against militancy. He added that Pakistan was playing a pivotal role in the war against terror.
President Zardari appreciated the role played by Ambassador Holbrooke in raising the issue of Pakistanis onboard the Gaza aid Flotilla that was attacked in international waters by Israel.
Prime Minister Gilani, in his meeting with Ambassador Holbrooke, regretted that while the time was running out on his government’s rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the areas cleared from militants, the aid pledges made at the Tokyo donors’ conference more than a year ago, was yet to be delivered by donor countries.
Gilani appreciated the fact that the US and Japanese governments had taken the initiative to make demarches to donor countries for delivering on their pledges. He also thanked the US for its intersession with the European Union member states to approve grant of GSP-Plus facilities to Pakistan.
At the meetings Holbrooke was accompanied by US Undersecretary of Treasury for International Affairs David Lipton and other senior officials.
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