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Obama reviews efforts to renew Pakistan ties

President Barack Obama. - AP Photo

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has reviewed efforts to improve ties with Pakistan with his national security team, the White House said on Thursday as media reports indicated that both countries were trying vigorously to reduce tensions that have bedevilled their relations for more than a year now. At Wednesday’s meeting, President Obama “received an update on our engagement with the Pakistani government on a range of issues of mutual interest, including efforts to strengthen cooperation along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,” the White House said.

US sources told Dawn that the White House had been regularly consulting Pakistan’s new ambassador in Washington, Sherry Rehman, on these issues.

Last week, Ambassador Rehman and a Pakistani defence team met the head of the US Central Command, General James N. Mattis, at the embassy. Soon after the meeting, The New York Times reported that Gen Mattis would visit Islamabad later this month for talks with Pakistani military chief and other officials and he might also convey an official apology on the Nov 26 Nato attack on a Pakistani post that killed 24 soldiers.

Pakistan has long demanded such an apology as an important step towards improving ties.

Another sign that both sides are making serious efforts to overcome their differences came earlier Thursday when US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter hinted that Nato supplies might have resumed through Pakistani airspace. Pakistan had blocked the supplies after the Nov 26 attack and Washington wanted Islamabad to open both land and air routes as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Ms Rehman is having another important meeting with senior White House officials on apparently accelerated attempts by both sides to rebuild a relationship that has gone sour.

She also met Senator John Kerry, who is considered the Obama administration’s unofficial envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan on Capitol Hill and is often sent to Islamabad for dealing with contentious issues.

Asked for comments on these meetings, Ms Rehman said she could not discuss ongoing negotiations but both sides were eager to leave behind the bitterness of the past year and move ahead with a new zeal.

“Pakistan is still reviewing the full spectrum of its relations with the US in a historic parliamentary review, which will anchor forthcoming decisions in the solid background of public consent,” she said.