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Grossman holds talks with Khar, Kayani

October 20, 2012

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman in a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Ms Hina Rabbani Khar.  — Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: Working groups of Pakistan and the United States on economy and finance; and energy and water would meet in Islamabad soon to further cooperation in these sectors.

Initially these working groups were to meet next week, but the meeting has been put off because of unavailability of Thomas Nides, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

“They expressed the hope that the Working Groups on Economy and Finance and Energy and Water would meet soon,” the Foreign Office said in a statement after a meeting between US Special Envoy Marc Grossman and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Saturday. The new dates for the meeting are being worked out.

The two sides have, however, agreed on the meeting of the defence consultative group in the first week of December.

Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue at the ministerial level has been suspended for two years. The last meeting was held in October 2010 in Washington, but the next in the series could not be held due to the downturn in bilateral ties in 2011.

An agreement on resuming the meetings of the working groups was reached during President Asif Ali Zardari’s meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session.

The group on counter-terrorism and law enforcement met earlier this month.

Beyond reiterating the commitment to carry on with the meetings of the working group, there was hardly any substantive outcome of Mr Grossman’s visit.

“It was more of exchange of views on issues of mutual interest and the regional issues,” an official said about the meeting.

Ms Khar and Mr Grossman expressed satisfaction over the progress achieved during the meeting of the working group on counter-terrorism and law enforcement. The two agreed to continue to work together for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Grossman later met Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and discussed the military aspect of the Afghan imbroglio.

A brief statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations said: “Issues related to peace and stability in Afghanistan were discussed.”

Anwar Iqbal adds from Washington: The State Department said that US and Pakistan were trying to revive working groups and other mechanisms of their bilateral relationship.

“We are re-engaging after some period now in trying to get our working groups and other things back up and running to support our joint efforts to meet the terror challenge,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told a briefing in Washington.

“That’s the trajectory that we’re on.”

Relations between the two countries began to improve earlier this year after more than a year of acute tensions. The tensions reached their peak after the United States raided Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad without informing Islamabad and Pakistan blocked Nato supply routes in retaliation to another US raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan has since reopened the routes and the two countries also have held some meetings of the working groups associated with the US-Pakistan strategic partnership.

“We want to see a strong, democratic Pakistan that works well with us and with the international community in addressing the terror challenges it has,” said spokesperson Nuland when asked to review efforts for restoring the ties.

She also noted that Pakistani leaders, including President Zardari, had reacted strongly to the attack on Malala Yousufzai last week, pledging to punish those responsible.

“Let me, though, take this opportunity, first to commend the UAE, who transported her, and the UK, who are treating her for those efforts, and to express our continued hopes for her full, speedy recovery,” Ms Nuland added.