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Victoria Nuland—Reuters Photo
State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland—Reuters Photo

WASHINGTON: The United States is seeking Pakistan’s support to secure Afghanistan as it prepares to pull out from the war-ravaged country by the end of next year, says the State Department.

The issue came up when the new US Secretary of State John Kerry called President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday to show his interest in continuing close ties with a key ally which shares a long and often troubled border with Afghanistan.

Mr Kerry emphasised “our shared interest in regional stability, including a secure and peaceful future for Afghanistan,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.

Mr Kerry acted as US President Barack Obama’s unofficial envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan when he headed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and often visited the two countries to supplement the administration’s efforts for resolving difficult issues.

Mr Nuland noted that Mr Kerry had established “a longstanding relationship” with many Pakistani leaders during these visits, and he used the phone call to “underscore the continuing importance of an effective, strong, and mutually beneficial US-Pakistani relationship”.

Since Mr Kerry called President Zardari hours before President Obama announced his plans for ending the war in Afghanistan, diplomatic observers in Washington say that their conversation must have focused on the issue.

Asked if Afghanistan’s reconciliation process also came up during Mr Kerry’s conversation with the Pakistani leader, Ms Nuland noted that Washington, Islamabad and Kabul were on the same page on the issue.

“We have been in a good place in recent months — Afghanistan, Pakistan, US — in terms of using the core group that we established to support Afghanistan reconciliation to work through some of the practical issues like safe passage for Taliban who are willing to consider reconciliation,” she said.

“As you can see from some of the moves that have been going on between Afghanistan and Pakistan, they are also having a better dialogue now about facilitating reconciliation. So we would hope that that trend could continue,” Ms Nuland added.

Secretary Kerry also underlined the issues on which the United States and Pakistan had common interests. These include fighting terrorism and extremism, supporting democratic civilian institutions, and supporting Pakistan’s efforts to increase economic growth, she said.

Secretary Kerry also discussed “our ongoing interest in finding a concrete way to act jointly in support of all of these goals, and he made clear that he looks forward to working with President Zardari going forward,” the spokesperson said.—Correspondent

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