ISLAMABAD, June 12: Notwithstanding escalating tensions, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar looked on Tuesday optimistic about a breakthrough in ties with the US as she called for “quiet diplomacy” to be allowed to work.
“We are moving, we are interacting, we are consulting, we are engaged in dialogue with them. We would hope that we can see, we can reach a solution that is acceptable to both the people and both the countries,” Foreign Minister Khar said at a media briefing after a meeting with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Ms Khar’s comments came a day after the news of US pulling back its team negotiating the reopening of the supply routes from Islamabad became public.
The development suggested that the fraught ties had touched their lowest level following US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s harsh comments on terrorist sanctuaries in the tribal areas.Mr Hague said Britain was greatly concerned about the possibility of a rift between Islamabad and Washington. He said he hoped Pakistan and US could work together to successfully end their differences.
Besides the technical-level discussions that have now been called off, Pakistan and the US are engaged in a political dialogue where leadership from both sides have been talking on issues straining the ties and preventing progress in discussions on new terms of engagement in the light of parliamentary resolution.
At behind the scenes talks, which was referred to by the FM as quiet diplomacy, the two sides have been deliberating on a whole range of issues, from drone strikes and apology over Salala attacks to allegations about terrorist sanctuaries in Fata, Haqqani network and Dr Shakeel Afridi’s issue.
A senior foreign ministry official shared Ms Khar’s optimism and said “serious efforts are being made to overcome the impasse”.
He said certain friendly countries were also helping.
The UK has been one of the countries that helped Islamabad in the past with some of its problematic foreign relations, but Mr Hague denied that he was involved in any mediation effort between the US and Pakistan.
It was obvious from the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office on the meeting between Mr Hague and Mr Gilani that Islamabad wanted the UK to intercede as it quoted the British foreign secretary as saying; “UK valued relations between Pakistan and the US”.
The context of these remarks wasn’t given in the official release, but a source said they were made in response to the PM taking up the issue of problems in ties with Washington.
The other major issue on Mr Hague’s agenda, apart from the discussions on bilateral matters, was Afghanistan.
Mr Hague, who would be participating in the Kabul Conference being held under the Istanbul process on June 14, discussed the future of Afghanistan during his meetings with President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and Foreign Minister Khar.