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US, Pakistan to resume high-level negotiations

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Sartaj Aziz, right, adviser on national security and foreign affairs, interacts with US Secretary of State John Kerry after their press conference in Islamabad, August 1, 2013. — Photo by AP
Sartaj Aziz, right, adviser on national security and foreign affairs, interacts with US Secretary of State John Kerry after their press conference in Islamabad, August 1, 2013. — Photo by AP
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks into a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad, August 1, 2013, in front of a portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. — Photo by Reuters
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks into a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad, August 1, 2013, in front of a portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. — Photo by Reuters
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, walks into a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad, August 1, 2013. — Photo by AP
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, walks into a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad, August 1, 2013. — Photo by AP
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad on August 1, 2013. — Photo by AFP
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad on August 1, 2013. — Photo by AFP
US Secretary of State John Kerry (2R) walks into a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad on August 1, 2013. — Photo by AFP
US Secretary of State John Kerry (2R) walks into a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad on August 1, 2013. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, said Thursday that the two countries will resume high-level negotiations over security issues.

Kerry also said he had invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to come to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama.

''I'm pleased to announce that today, very quickly, we were able to agree to a resumption of the strategic dialogue in order to foster a deeper, broader and more comprehensive partnership between our countries,'' Kerry said at a press conference with Aziz in Islamabad.

He was speaking to media representatives after holding meetings with Prime Minister Sharif at the latter's residence and with a team led by Aziz at the Foreign Office. The US secretary of state also held a meeting with army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

He said the talks will cover ''all of the key issues between us, from border management to counterterrorism to promoting US private investment and to Pakistan's own journey to economic revitalisation.''

The US and Pakistan launched high-level talks on a wide swath of security and development programs in 2010. But the talks stalled in November 2011 after US airstrikes on a Pakistani post on the Pak-Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Even before that, the bilateral relationship was severely damaged by a variety of incidents, including a CIA contractor shooting to death two Pakistanis in Lahore and the covert US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

The resumption of the strategic dialogue indicates that the relationship between the two countries has improved since that low point. But there is still significant tension and mistrust between the two countries, especially regarding US drone strikes and Pakistan's alleged ties with the militants using its territory to launch cross-border attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

''It is also no secret that along this journey in the last few years we've experienced a few differences,'' Kerry said.

''I think we came here today, both the prime minister and myself, with a committment that we cannot allow events that might divide us in a small way to distract from the common values and the common interests that unite us in big ways.''

Kerry was also asked about progress on a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan that would keep some US forces in that country after 2014.

''I am personally confident that we will have an agreement, and the agreement will be timely,'' he replied.

''And I am confident that the president has ample space here within which to make any decisions he wants to make regarding future troop levels.''

While this is Kerry's first visit to Islamabad as secretary of state, he has a long history of dealing with Pakistan as former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sharif described him as ''a wonderful friend,'' and Kerry said, ''I have had the pleasure of visiting (Sharif's) home and having a number of meals with him.''

Before heading into a closed-door meeting, Sharif asked Kerry about his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who was hospitalised after a seizure last month.

''She's doing better,'' Kerry said.

Sharif came to power in an election that marked the first time in Pakistan that a civilian government completed its full five-year term and transferred power in democratic elections. The country has a history of civilian leaders being overthrown in military coups.

''This is a historic transition that just took place,'' Kerry told US Embassy employees.

''Nobody should diminish it.''

Senior administration officials traveling with Kerry told reporters that while relations with Pakistan have grown touchy in recent years, there is the prospect of resetting those ties with Sharif's government and working together on major issues — counterterrorism, energy, regional stability, economic reforms, trade and investment. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to publicly discuss Kerry's agenda.

The US also wants Pakistan to pressure leaders of the Afghan Taliban to negotiate with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government, renounce violence and sever ties with Al Qaeda.

Officials in neighbouring Afghanistan are demanding that Pakistan dismantle extremists' havens inside the country and push the Taliban to join the peace process.

Both the US and Afghanistan say that if attacks are allowed to continue, the region will never become stable.

Pakistani officials say they do not control the Taliban, but Karzai's government isn't convinced.

Drone strikes are another point of contention.

Washington says it needs to attack dangerous militants with drones because Pakistan's government refuses to engage them militarily. Pakistan contends the drone strikes are a fresh violation of its sovereignty, and they have increased widespread anti-American sentiment in the country.

The United States has reduced the number of drone attacks against militants in Pakistan and limited strikes to top targets. There have been 16 drone strikes in Pakistan this year, compared with a peak of 122 in 2010, 73 in 2011 and 48 in 2012, according to the New America Foundation, a US-based think tank.

After Kerry wraps up his meetings in Islamabad, he is scheduled to fly to London. The State Department said he will meet there with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to discuss Egypt, Syria and Middle East peace.


Comments (16) Closed



Khan Aug 01, 2013 01:49pm

Mr, PM suits don't suit you! you look like... just dont wear them. it doesnt matter if you wear $10K + suit, you still look like... just dont! Same goes for Sartaj Aziz... eeeh! whats up with your expression!?

M. Asghar Aug 01, 2013 02:47pm

The strategic relations between the two countries for the USA are not much more than defending exclusively their own interests in the region using Pakistan and this cannot and will not work, because the Pakistan's strategic axis is only Asia based.

Feroz Aug 01, 2013 03:25pm

This is a relationship characterized by smiles and tears, both in equal measure. The expectations and hopes have not been dashed even after 66 years of duplicity and infidelity, not sure whether the marriage of convenience was crafted in Heaven or Hell.

ALI Aug 01, 2013 04:01pm

RATHER HAVE A SNAKE FOR A FRIEND

Muhammad Shujaat Aug 01, 2013 04:41pm

Kerry may not have been fasting but he should have respected Ramadhan by not mentioning the wonderful meals he seems to have had.

Prapa Smutkojon Aug 01, 2013 06:17pm

For several decades now, Pakistan foreign & security policies have been conducted by successive civilian & military leaders principally to serve US regional interests. Today Pakistan as a nation, its sovereignty, its economy, its social fabric are left teetering because of it. When will Pakistan leaders ever learn that no good can come out flirting with the US ? What do we see today, smiling faces of our politicians in company of John Kerry. Shame. Absolute shame. To the Americans, Pakistan can be had at a flip of the fingers. How insulting. How degrading.

Prapa Smutkojon Aug 01, 2013 06:34pm

For the past several decades, Pakistan foreign & security policies have been conducted to principally serve US regional & strategic interests. Pakistan have paid heavy price for that. Its sovereignty, economy, its development & social fabrics are tethering at the brink. What do we see today of Pakistan top politicians in company of John Kerry, brimming smiles. Shame, utter shame. When will Pakistan ever learn that nothing good can come out from flirting with the US ?

Mohammad Bajwa Aug 01, 2013 08:18pm

Pakistan and US should use talks on FTA and BIT to break the ice. Pakistan should show flexibility on these issues by accepting pattern established in US agreements with other countries. Moreover textile and IPR lobbies should not be allowed to dictate terms. Front loading of service trade should be given serious consideration.

welwelwel Aug 01, 2013 08:38pm

such a nice chineses man.

Dilawer Aug 01, 2013 08:44pm

I have not seen PM Sharif happier than what it is shown in the photos. Not even the re-election gave him this kind of happy feeling - Not criticizing or trying to be sarcastic here. Just an observation.

skintaj Aug 01, 2013 08:55pm

FACT is Pakistan has been fighting proxy war of USA and Europe , since Soviet Union Invasion of Afghanistan. Some forget to mention that US went to Afghanistan to build the oil pipeline from Caspian sea to their pickup points in Gulf which is why they planted Karzai (ex-Unocal employee) as president of Afghanistan. The people of Pakistan had suffered greatly as a result of the ongoing fight against militancy and terrorism and there was need forthe international community to give our people the peace dividend by way of massive economic assistance, energy development and greater market access.

MUNTAHA Aug 02, 2013 12:56am

The summary of the kerry's visit to Pakistan is that ,with all the powerful military and democracy the will of people will not be practised . It is clear that drone attacks will not end for they are our nations "national issue".Pakistan with a strong army and nuclear power still stands in line with counteries like jordan! I wonder why not the government step aside and tell us we are a colony of U.S,for they have been very blunt in case of informing people that loadshedding and the humilating friendship with india will not seize in their term.well at the end it is not the government but the people to blame ,as they donot realize why we make our military strong?we donot realize how little we our asking only to shoot a tiny drone ?when the U.S sponsered terrorism in Pakistan have stained our roads red we only demand to stop the drone !well if the terrorists are americas enemy then why not these terrorists who can carry huge amount of ammunations and roam in the country not shoot the drone ?how come there high tech ammunations are only available to attack our military installations and vanish as the drone approches?

Mohammad Basith, California Aug 02, 2013 01:19am

We have never seen our beloved Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff and our National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz so happy and joyous as seen meeting with the Secretary of State John Kerry in the pictures as if all there long awaited wishes have been fullfilled and there prayers have been answered during this blessed month of Ramadan. Be happy and keep on smiling like this always Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Aziz..

sattar rind Aug 02, 2013 01:38am

good decision ... we both needs each other. we both are fighting with terrorism. yes these decision needs time .. let them take their time ... but its requested that peace become now our first and last demand from both leaders.

amar Aug 02, 2013 03:27am

He should refuse to go and demand a stop to drones

Jalaluddin S. Hussain Aug 02, 2013 04:03am

Pakistan should adopt an independent foreign policy and not depend on foreign aids from any quarter whatsoever.