US steps up drive to mend Pakistan ties; coordinate on Afghan future

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The United States says the pace of high-level meetings with Pakistan is back to normal after a rocky period in bilateral ties as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed to Brussels for a meeting with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to coordinate efforts on future of Afghanistan in the run up to the 2014 military drawdown.
Ahead of talks, the State Department acknowledged Islamabad’s recent moves and cooperative efforts with Kabul in support of Afghan peace and reconciliation.
A senior State Department official also cited a series of meetings to improve US-Pakistan relationship, strained severely by the American unilateral raid on al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad last year. Briefing journalists on the US-Pakistan meeting en route to Europe, a senior State Department official said Clinton’s scheduled meeting in Brussels with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is latest in a series of talks between the two countries. “Obviously, if you sort of step back a little bit, for us, 2011 was as hard a year in US-Pakistan relations as you can imagine,” the official said.
“And so we tried in 2012 to sort of get back into some sensible business with them. Our philosophy has been that it ought to be possible between Pakistan and the United States to systematically identify our shared interests and act on them jointly.” This year, the United States has tried to improve relations between the two countries by focusing on counterterrorism cooperation, Afghanistan’s future and improving market access and trade – not aid – with a bilateral investment treaty, said the official. In the context of Afghan peace and stability, the senior American official said Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relationship is really the “most important” thing. “I think over the past few months that we see some very interesting developments ——- the visit of the High Peace Council Chair (Salahuddin) Rabbani to Islamabad, where there were some prisoner releases and also discussion about the road forward. General Kayani then went to Kabul almost immediately afterwards to meet again with the leadership in Afghanistan. And then just last week, I think, Foreign Minister Rassoul of Afghanistan went to Islamabad to continue that conversation ——- if you look at the joint statement that they issued, it talks about all of the things that the Secretary (Clinton) has been interested in over this past couple of years, which is their work together, economic aspects of this, peace and reconciliation.