ISLAMABAD: Islamabad on Thursday reiterated its opposition to US drone attacks in its territory as Washington’s point man on Pakistan and Afghanistan arrived amid efforts to mend fractured relations.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States plunged last year over the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan and a Nato air strike near the border with Afghanistan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Marc Grossman, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, held talks with officials Thursday during his first visit to the country since a parliamentary review ordered in the wake of the air strike.
While drone attacks appear to be in a lull, the United States has been enthusiastic about such unmanned attacks on militants deep in Pakistani territory. Pakistan says the strikes kill civilians and fuel resentment.
In guidelines approved by parliament earlier this month, Pakistan called for an unconditional US apology over the air raid deaths, a ban on transporting weapons through the country and an end to drone strikes.
“We consider drones as illegal, non-productive and accordingly unacceptable,” Pakistan’s foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said at a joint news conference with Grossman.
“This is an issue which also has been discussed at the highest civilian and military leadership.”
He said that Pakistan expected talks with US officials to lead to a solution under the guidelines set by parliament.
Grossman offered condolences for the air raid deaths but not an apology, and on the drone issue said both Pakistan and the US faced threats from al Qaeda and other extremist groups.
Pakistan closed its borders to convoys supplying Nato troops in Afghanistan in the wake of the November air strikes, and Jilani said a new arrangement would need to be worked out.
Grossman said the US was ready for talks on re-opening the supply lines and clearing outstanding payments to Pakistan to meet the expenses of military operations in its tribal areas to fight Taliban and al Qaeda militants.
“We are ready to get to the work. We want to work to reopen the ground lines of communication. We want to discuss several outstanding claims for the coalition support fund (CSF),” Grossman said.
Grossman said the United Stated wanted to increase market access and economic opportunity and wanted a stable Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Grossman meets Kayani
The US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, heading a high level delegation called on the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
They held talks on the subject of bilateral relations, covering a wide range of security issues in line with the guidelines for re-engagement with the United States as decided by the Parliamentary review.