“We hope that the trilateral meeting would be rescheduled as soon as possible. Such meetings are important for peace and security in the region,” Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told AFP on Monday. – File Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said Monday it hoped that postponed talks with the United States and Afghanistan would be rescheduled soon, despite a deepening diplomatic crisis over the ongoing detention of a US official.

The US State Department postponed the talks, set for this month, following failed attempts to get Pakistan to release Raymond Davis, who is accused of double murder and has been held in Lahore.

The annual talks, in which ministers and other top officials review the war in Afghanistan and the fight against militants, had been scheduled for February 23-24 in Washington.

“We hope that the trilateral meeting would be rescheduled as soon as possible. Such meetings are important for peace and security in the region,” Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told AFP.

The indefinite postponement marked the latest blow to Pakistani-US ties, which have been increasingly strained since Davis confessed to shooting dead two Pakistani motorcyclists in Lahore on January 27.

Washington says he is a diplomat and immune from prosecution.

Pakistani police on Friday rejected his claim of self-defence on grounds that the two men were about to rob him, accusing him of cold-blooded murder. A judge extended his remand by two weeks, angering US authorities.

The weak Pakistani government is under enormous domestic pressure to see Davis put on trial, in a country awash with anti-American sentiment.

US lawmakers have threatened to cut payments to Pakistan, the beneficiary of $7.5 billion of aid and $2 billion in military aid, and Washington had warned that the high-level dialogue was at risk unless Davis is freed.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to meet Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at a recent conference in Munich to show displeasure over the case, according to a diplomat familiar with the issue. – AFP

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