WASHINGTON: High-level talks on ending a diplomatic deadlock between the United States and Pakistan have ended in failure over Pakistani demands for an apology from the United States, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The newspaper said US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman left Islamabad Friday night with no agreement.
The departure followed two days of discussions aimed at patching up the damage caused by a US air strike last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghanistan border, the report said.
The United States refuses to apologise for the strike.
The incident has damaged the precarious US-Pakistani partnership and provoked outrage in Islamabad, which has retaliated by cutting off NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.
The United States and Pakistan disagree about the precise sequence of events in the deadliest single cross-border attack of the 10-year war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies shooting first, and has accused the Americans of an intentional attack on its troops.
The administration of President Barack Obama had been seriously debating whether to say “I’m sorry” to Pakistan’s satisfaction – until April 15, when multiple simultaneous attacks struck Kabul and other Afghan cities, The Times said.
“What changed was the 15th of April,” the paper quotes an unnamed senior administration official as saying.
US military and intelligence officials concluded that the attacks were directed by the Haqqani network, a group working from a base in North Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal belt, the report said.
That swung the raging debate on whether Obama or another senior US official should go beyond the expression of regret that the administration had already given, and apologise, the paper said.
Without the apology, Pakistani officials say they cannot reopen the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan that have been closed since November, the report said.
The United States, in turn, is withholding from Pakistan between $1.18 billion and $3 billion (2.26 billion euros) of promised military aid.
The continuing deadlock does not bode well for Pakistan’s attendance at a NATO meeting in Chicago in three weeks, assuming it is even invited, The Times said.
US administration officials acknowledged Friday that the stalemate would not be resolved quickly, the paper noted.