WASHINGTON: The United States has acknowledged that both Pakistan and the Taliban have legitimate grievances and the United States is willing to address those concerns.

At a Monday news briefing, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells confirmed that senior US and Pakistani officials will hold a series of meetings in Washington this week, and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua will lead the Pakistani delegation at these two-day talks.

Official sources, however, said that Secretary Janjua’s visit has been delayed for a day as she had changed her schedule for last minute consultations in Islamabad.

“Secretary Janjua was reaching Washington on Tuesday but now she will come on Wednesday,” said an official source, adding that “the delay will not impact her meetings with US officials on Thursday”.

“We’re certainly not walking away from Pakistan. There will be very intensive dialogue through both our military and our civilian channels to discuss how we can work together,” Ms Wells said. “Pakistan has an important role to play in helping to stabilise Afghanistan.”

She also conceded that the suspension of US security aid to Pakistan had failed to force Islamabad to change its policies.

“We’re in the beginning of a process with the Pakistani government. We have a series of high-level exchan­ges,” said Ms Wells, indicating that the foreign secretary’s visit will lead to more talks with Pakistan, both in Washington and Islamabad.

The current process, which followed months of tensions between the two allies, began with a visit to Islamabad last week by Lisa Curtis, a senior director for South and Central Asia at the White House National Security Council.

Ms Wells said that at the State Department, Secretary Janjua will meet Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, dismissing earlier speculations that the visitors may only meet junior level officials.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2018

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