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US handout on Imran-Pompeo call 'contrary to facts', says Shah Mahmood

Updated August 24, 2018

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses press conference in Islamabad. ─ DawnNewsTV
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses press conference in Islamabad. ─ DawnNewsTV

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while addressing a press conference at the Foreign Office (FO) on Friday asserted that the United States (US) handout on a phone call between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo a day earlier which mentioned terrorists operating in Pakistan "is not representative of the facts".

A readout on the PM Khan-Pompeo phone call issued by the US State Department had said: "Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process."

Soon after, the Foreign Office had taken exception to the "factually incorrect statement issued by the US State Department" regarding the discussion during the phone call, saying there was "no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan".

Following the FO's statement, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said: "We stand by our readout."

Qureshi, while addressing a briefing at the FO alongside spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal today, said that the latter had "presented Pakistan's stance" regarding PM Khan's phone call with Pompeo.

"The statement issued by the State Department in which some things have been mentioned is in contrast to the truth," Qureshi said.

"I was in Multan addressing a gathering, but the foreign secretary wanted to speak to me urgently [regarding the matter]. I told her yes, we must issue an immediate clarification," he said.

"I will say, yes, their press release mentioning terrorists operating in Pakistan is contrary to the facts."

"The impression that has been given in their press release, which mentions terrorists operating in Pakistan, is in contrast with reality. And I say this with full confidence."

"I would also like to say that what conversation took place between Pompeo and PM Khan, you will be surprised to know that it was a very good conversation. He congratulated PM Khan and expressed a wish to engage constructively with the new government. They want a productive bilateral relationship. Wherever our interests converge, we have to proceed accordingly," Qureshi said.

"I look forward to Pompeo's visit and to engage with him for peace and stability and look at areas where both countries stand to gain," the foreign minister added.

'Strained ties with US known to all'

"The strained ties with the US are known to all," Qureshi told the briefing. "Relations with the US have always seen highs and lows."

"It is an important bilateral relationship. We briefed the PM that to bring back relations to their former high, we cannot deny Afghanistan's importance. Their needs will have to be understood for this to be possible."

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is set to visit Pakistan soon, the foreign minister said, adding that the "early interaction will prove beneficial, we believe".

Qureshi also said: "Peace in Afghanistan is central to peace in Pakistan. President Ashraf Ghani has also sent a positive signal [to Pakistan]. We have to see what role Pakistan can assume."

Ties with China

The foreign minister said that his Chinese counterpart would be visiting Islamabad on Sept 8.

Describing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as "an important development", Qureshi said that the participants of the meeting had deliberated over how Pakistan can "benefit to the fullest" from it.

"The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation also brings numerous opportunities, and how Pakistan can benefit has to be analysed," he said, adding that China-Pakistan friendship is "exemplary".

India-Pakistan relations

"India-Pakistan relations are not hidden from you. We have to see how to proceed. Pakistan is not shy. In the PM's first address, he had said, 'You take one step, we will take two,'" Qureshi said. "We have signalled positively towards India. I am thankful to India's foreign affairs minister who has sent me a congratulatory letter."

"You need two to tango. You cannot clap with just one hand. We have a positive stance and will remain hopeful."

Answering to a question, Qureshi said that he had informed his Indian counterpart "that we have no way forward other than dialogue".

"Whether or not there is any development, we need dialogue. The general atmosphere is improved with dialogue. We need an enabling environment," he added.

Qureshi also commented on ties with Iran and Japan. His counterparts from both countries are scheduled to visit soon, he said.

PM Khan provides FO guidelines on foreign policy

Qureshi addressed today's briefing following a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and other senior officials at the FO.

The PM was briefed on the country's foreign policy and ties with other countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, the United States and India, as well as the situation in Kashmir.

PM Khan also provided guidelines to the FO on foreign policy, Radio Pakistan reported.

Qureshi said that the PM had been presented an overview of foreign policy challenges facing the FO.

"One thing is glaringly obvious ─ We need good representation of our viewpoints at the international level. We need inter-institutional dialogue and consensus."

"The direction and objectives of our foreign policy ─ our need is peace. Regional peace. We need stability to progress and we need clarity in our objectives."

Qureshi said that upon his return to the post of foreign minister after seven years, he had observed that "things have changed".

"There have been realignments," he explained. "The world has changed. It is different from what it used to be. Pakistan is no longer the darling of the West."

"Political and economic centres are shifting eastwards. The world is becoming increasingly multi-polar and is no longer uni-polar. A multi-polar world has demands that are different from a uni-polar world," he observed.

"A liberal world order that had emerged is now under stress. There is rising Islamophobia. Anti-immigrant sentiment is also on the rise as affected Western politics deeply."