British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday expressed concerns over the continued blockade of vital land routes for foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan but hoped for an early breakthrough on the issue between Pakistan and the US.
Hague flew to Islamabad just hours after an announcement by Washington that it was withdrawing its team of experts holding discussions with Pakistani authorities to reopen key Nato supply lines.
The British foreign secretary confirmed he had discussed and raised the issue with the Pakistani leadership but dispelled the impression that his country was mediating between the two countries to broker a deal on the issue.
Hague met President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and held formal talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar to discuss a wide range of issues including Pak-UK bilateral ties and the regional security situation.
At a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Khar, the top British diplomat attempted not to take sides in the ongoing impasse between Pakistan and the US.
He insisted he was not here to adjudicate between the two countries.
“This is an issue of concern for the United Kingdom; those lines of communications affect us as well. So of course we want this issue to be resolved,” Hague said about the continued stalemate over the resumption of supply routes.
However, he stopped short of endorsing or rejecting Pakistan’s demand for an unconditional apology over last year’s Nato air strikes in Salala which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Khar said the world must respect the policy recommendations approved by parliament in April.
“We all have to respect the verdict of democracy, so for us the parliamentary recommendations are of extreme importance and we have good sense that the US understands that and we hope both of us will be able to move forward on that,” she remarked.
In contrast to recent criticism by the US, the British foreign secretary highlighted Pakistan’s important role in the fight against terrorism.
He urged the world for a “greater understanding” of the challenges the country is facing.
“Pakistan is misunderstood in many parts of the world. As a friend of Pakistan, I want to urge a greater understanding of Pakistan and the challenges your country faces, including the fact that Pakistan has suffered more than any other country from terrorism,” he said.
Hague added that the UK would remain an “unswerving supporter” of Pakistan’s development.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.
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