Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar welcomed the idea of resuming cooperation with the United States on counter-terrorism and Afghanistan, a senior US official said on Thursday.
The official gave an upbeat assessment of talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries, on the sidelines of the Somalia conference being held in London, designed to help repair relations pushed deep into crisis after the Salala checkpost attack.
During the meeting, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar that her country fully respected the parliament’s need to review relations carefully. However, that should not impinge upon the need to ‘resume’ joint work in areas of strategic interest, she added.
Clinton told Khar that “we had to get ready to get back into business with Pakistan and that was particularly important (on) areas such as counter-terrorism, as well as working together on some of the regional questions, including Afghanistan,” said the US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The foreign minister was very welcoming of that,” the US official added as he briefed on the ministers’ one-hour, 15-minute meeting in London.
Clinton also raised the possibility of a series of US officials going to Pakistan once the review is complete to discuss, among other things, what kind of aid the United States may continue to give the Pakistani government, the US official said.
They could include special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who oversees the State Department’s aid budget, and Rajiv Shah, head of the US Agency for International Development.
‘Much to ponder upon’
Earlier, US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner had confirmed both leaders had much to discuss in their meeting. “Our goal remains to put this relationship back on track by trying to put some of the problems that we have had in the relationship in recent past behind us and move productively forward,” said Toner.
Responding to a story carried by Reuters about Afghan officials meeting with members of the Quetta Shura, Toner said that he did not have any information about these meetings.
The State Department spokesperson was also asked about Secretary Clinton’s earlier statements which asked Pakistan to take action against certain groups in the backdrop of the reconciliation process, to which he said, “We’ve been very clear about our red lines and, indeed, the Afghan government’s red lines for those Taliban who would participate in any reconciliation process. And so the groups that we’re talking about, that the Secretary raised her concerns about operating in Pakistan, are clearly not part of this process. They’re carrying out violent attacks against Afghans and also international entities in Afghanistan.” (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM REUTERS)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2012.
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