Pak, US agree to continue talks on Afghanistan, region

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Tehmina reaffirms country’s constructive participation in regional, bilateral mechanisms aimed at pursuing peaceful solution to Afghan conflict

Top US delegation acknowledges Army’s contributions, country’s sacrifices in ‘war on terror’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States on Thursday made a breakthrough in bilateral cooperation with the resumption of official dialogue over future strategy on Afghanistan and rest of the issues in the South Asia region.

“Both the sides reviewed the state of play in the bilateral relationship in wake of the US strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia and agreed to continue discussions on all matters of mutual interest,” an official handout said soon after the meeting was held between an interagency US delegation with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and other members of Pakistani delegation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).

The US delegation was led by Lisa Curtis, the Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for South Asia, who led talks at the ministry. The US delegation included Acting Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence David Helvey and other senior officials from Departments of State, Defence and the US embassy in Islamabad. Tehmina Janjua led the Pakistani side, which included senior officials from MoFA and other relevant departments.

The visit comes on the heels of the recent visit of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to the US and his meetings in Washington with top officials of Trump Administration.

The visit by US delegates would also mark a fresh start between the US and Pakistani officials, as the dialogue had been frozen by Islamabad soon after an outburst by US President Donald Trump on the eve of the announcement of his policy on South Asia and Afghanistan.

Not only Pakistan had recorded its protest over Trump’s remarks, all the official communication had been put on a halt till the review of the country’s relations with the US.

The visiting delegation noted that the US had a long track record of cooperation with Pakistan and emphasised the importance of reinvigorating the bilateral relationship, in order to achieve the common objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

“The two sides reviewed the state of play in the relationship in wake of the US strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia and agreed to continue discussions on all matters of mutual interest,” an official handout said.

Reiterating Pakistan’s stance for a politically negotiated settlement owned and led by the Afghans, the foreign secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s constructive participation in all regional and bilateral mechanisms aimed at pursuing a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict.

“The US delegation was also informed on the recent visit by Pakistani officials to Kabul with a view to intensifying engagement and addressing mutual concerns particularly border management and repatriation of refugees,” the statement added.

Highlighting Pakistan’s ongoing law enforcement and CT campaign, the foreign secretary apprised the US delegation of Pakistan’s efforts in eliminating terrorism from the Pakistani soil.  Pakistan’s concerns on continued attacks from across the border were also shared, the statement added.

“The US delegation was informed about the atrocities and human rights violations being committed by the Indian forces in the India-occupied Kashmir (IoK), resulting in hundreds of casualties. It was noted that persistent Indian refusal to engage with Pakistan, despite Pakistan’s repeated overtures for a comprehensive dialogue, was adversely impacting regional stability,” the statement said.

The two sides agreed to continue bilateral engagements at all levels.

FO SAYS PAKISTAN, US TO JOINTLY BATTLE TERRORISM:

Earlier, Pakistan and the United States reached a consensus over the importance of deeper cooperation to deal with the menace of terrorism during a meeting, said Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria.

Zakaria said that this was decided during a meeting between a 10-member delegation from the US led by Lisa Curtis and a delegation from Pakistan led by Tehmina Janjua.

The status of Pak-US relations in diverse areas and regional situations—including Kashmir human right violations, relations with eastern neighbour India, and the situation in Afghanistan—were discussed.

He added, “Both sides noted the importance of better understanding [and] deeper coop to deal with challenges particularly terrorism that is a common enemy.”

On October 4, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a meeting with Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif.

In a meeting on October 4, US Secretary Rex Tillerson said Pakistan’s partnership is necessary for the long-term stability in the South Asian region.  “Not just Afghanistan, but it is the importance of Pakistan and Pakistan’s long-term stability as well,” he remarked while speaking about US’s policy towards South Asia.

“We want Pakistan’s government to be stable, peaceful… many of the same issues they are struggling inside Pakistan are our issues. So we think there is an opportunity to strengthen that relationship,” he added.

TOP US DELEGATION CALLS ON COAS:

Meanwhile, Lisa Curtis-led delegation—including Ambassador Alice G Wells, Ambassador David Hale and other representatives—called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The delegation briefed COAS on contours of US strategy in South Asia. The discussion focused on the regional security situation, including Afghanistan, and how Pakistan has positively contributed towards peace and stability in the region.

COAS highlighted concerns of Pakistan regarding peace and stability in the region, reiterating that Pakistan has done its best—despite constraints—and shall continue its efforts for the sake of Pakistan’s future and in line with aspirations of the people.

The delegation appreciated and acknowledged Pak Army’s contributions and country’s sacrifices in the ‘war on terror’.