WASHINGTON: The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is a bad idea and Washington is engaged with Islamabad to find better alternatives for meeting its energy need, says the US State Department.
On Tuesday, President Asif Ali Zardari told the visiting Iranian Vice President for International Affairs Ali Seedlou that Pakistan was committed to the early implementation of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and will not abandon the project despite external pressures.
“We’re also talking to Pakistan about these issues, and our view with regard to this pipeline hasn’t changed. We think it’s a bad idea and we’re continuing to talk to Pakistan about that,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told a briefing in Washington when asked to comment on Islamabad’s stance.
“Are you also giving them some alternative options?” she was asked.
“We are working with Pakistan as we’re working with countries around the world on other ways to meet their energy needs,” Ms Nuland responded.
Replying to a question on a recent New York Times report that the United States was considering an apology to Pakistan on the Nov 26 Nato airstrikes, Ms Nuland said: “We’re not going to be able to make any decisions about where we might go until Pakistan itself completes its internal review that is still ongoing and until we have a chance to consult directly with Pakistan.”
The US and Pakistan, she added, had talked about the timelines for completing the review process but until they do so, “we can’t be sure when that will be”.
“How does that relate to an apology or not making an apology?” a journalist asked.
“Well, what we’ve already said, what we said at the time, what we said for days and days, continues to stand,” Ms Nuland responded.
“But is there some possibility that once the Pakistani review is over that might change?” the journalist asked.
“We will make no decisions until we have a chance to consult with the Pakistanis,” she replied. “We are not going to be able to be clear about how we’re going to get this relationship back on track until we hear from the Pakistanis what the result of their review is and we have a chance to work with them on where we might go.”
Responding to another question, Ms Nuland said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani did not meet any US official during his visit to Qatar. She, however, assured Pakistan that the US recognised its role in the Afghan reconciliation process.
“We have long said that we would hope that Pakistan would continue to support the process of Afghans reconciling with each other. We have kept the Pakistani government briefed,” she said.
At the Pentagon, Press Secretary George Little noted that the US had already expressed “deepest regret” on the loss of life in the Nov 26 strike but declined to say if there was any move by the US to apologise for the incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
According to the NYT report, the US military’s Central Command chief, Gen James Mattis will give final shape to ‘new terms of engagement’ with Pakistan during his talks with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and other military officials in Islamabad next week.
“I do not have any visits to announce today. We always look forward to meeting our Pakistani counterparts,” Mr Little said when asked about the visit. He also said that there were no new updates on the closed Nato supply routes to Afghanistan.
The New York Times reported that these supply routes could soon be opened as the two allies move closer to rebuilding their ties.