Britain offers balm for Pakistan-US wounds


As British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday urged Pakistan to reopen the blocked NATO supplies while voicing concern over the Pakistan-US impasse, the country’s top leadership made it clear that any such demand would be accepted only after a public US apology over the Salala airstrike that killed 24 soldiers.
British Foreign Secretary reached Islamabad on Tuesday to hold vital talks with Pakistani leaders about the reopening of NATO supplies and other bilateral, regional and international issues. He met President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and also held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar at the Foreign Office.
In his meetings, Hague asked for an immediate resumption of NATO supplies that Pakistan blocked last year in retaliation to the NATO airstrike on its border posts in Mohmand Agency. “The British foreign secretary offered his country’s mediatory role to help resolve the conflicting matters between Islamabad and Washington and also to act as ‘guarantor’ in case of any deal on different issues between the two estranged allies in return for the reopening of NATO supplies,” said a diplomatic source, seeking anonymity. Nonetheless, he said Pakistani leadership told the British foreign secretary that there must be a public US apology before any such move was made by Islamabad. Hague arrived in Islamabad soon after the inconclusive talks between Islamabad and Washington over the resumption of stalled NATO supplies. US Assistant Defense Secretary Peter Lavoy, who headed his country’s delegation in those talks after reaching Islamabad on Friday, departed empty handed on Sunday for Washington and as a result, the tensions between the two sides have risen further.
The source said the Pakistani leadership told the British foreign secretary that Islamabad was not pulling out of talks with the US on NATO supplies and it was ready to resume that process when the other side was ready. A Pakistani official, who sought anonymity, confirmed the British efforts for reconciliation between Islamabad and Washington. However, he said the pulling out of US team did not imply a complete breakdown in talks, as both Islamabad and Washington had also been engaged in back channel diplomacy with the help of common friends like Britain to iron out their differences on NATO supplies and other conflicting matters like the drone strikes. Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Hina Khar, Hague dispelled the impression that his visit was aimed at mediating between Pakistan and US. However, he did confirm that the vital issue of NATO supplies was discussed in talks that he held on Tuesday with the Pakistani leadership. “Obviously we want this issue to be resolved and of course we raised it and discussed it today,” he said, in response to a query on NATO supplies.
He said his government wanted to see the supply lines reopened. “Those lines of communication affect us as well,” he said. However, he added that it was an issue for Islamabad and Washington to resolve. Hague showed concern over the months’ long stalemate between Pakistan and the US on the reopening of NATO supply routes. He said, “We look to the United States and Pakistan to work successfully together and of greater concern to us, even than those lines of communication, would be a rift between the United States and Pakistan.” He also appreciated the continuity of democratic process in Pakistan while acknowledging the commitment of the government to hold fair, free and impartial elections for smooth change of power to the next democratically elected government.


  1. A Brit. foreign minister is never his own man — never have been …

    Is it 'Obama's gofer' or 'Londonistan vote seeker'?

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