WASHINGTON: After US set aside the condition of reopening Nato supply route for the presence of Pakistan at the Chicago summit, President Asif Ali Zardari too has decided to attend the crucial meeting this weekend, the Pakistan Embassy in Washington said on Tuesday. It brought closure to speculation that Islamabad might be omitted from high-level talks on Afghanistan’s future.
Nadeem Hotiana, an embassy spokesman, confirmed that Zardari would attend the conference, scheduled for May 20-21. Given that Washington, which had earlier extended the invitation despite an agreement on the reopening of the supply line yet to be reached, demonstrated that they valued Pakistan’s presence at the summit more.
Pakistan had shut the land communication route in November after a Nato attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Observing this, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet announced that it would endorse Zardari’s presence in Chicago later in the week.
Senior Pakistan officials including Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had both signalled a need to reopen the supply lines, observing that keeping the route shut was detrimental for Pakistan.
US looks forward to resolving Nato supply route issue with Pakistan
The US state department, quizzed over whether extending Pakistan an invitation to the Chicago summit meant abandoning the demand of reopening supply route, spokesperson Victoria Nuland reiterated that negotiations were still underway but it was considered important that Pakistan attend the moot.
“We are continuing our discussions with the Pakistanis. Our technical team is still there. We are making progress. We have not yet completed an agreement. We do consider the agreement important, but we also consider — and all of our NATO partners considered it important — to have Pakistan in the ISAF and neighbours event at the summit in Chicago,” she said.
Explaining the invitation to the summit, she said that “as a neighbour of Afghanistan, Pakistan does have an important role to play in supporting Afghan security. We do want to see these land routes opened. We are continuing to work on it. But we thought it was important to have them at the summit in this partnership role.”
Nuland though hoped that the route reopens before the summit commences. “Obviously, it’ll be a wonderful signal if we can get it done by the time of the summit. But we decided nonetheless — NATO countries all together decided that it was important to have Pakistan in the ISAF meeting.”
She reminded the gathered media persons that negotiations with Pakistan were far from over. “But it’s not finished till it’s finished.”