Preceding ministerial visits: US delegation holds preparatory talks

ISLAMABAD: An interagency US delegation, comprising representatives from the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, held talks with Pakistan’s civil and military authorities here on Thursday, which mainly focused on the contours of new American strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.

The delegation, led by Deputy Assistant to the US President and National Security Council Senior Director for South Asia Lisa Curtis, included acting US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Alice Wells and US Ambassador David Hale.

The delegation held talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, paid a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and visited Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, according to separate statements issued by the Foreign Office and the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

During these meeting, the senior US officials briefed the Pakistani authorities on the contours of the new strategy unveiled by US President Donald Trump on August 21 for Afghanistan and South Asia.

Trump’s announcement has caused friction in the Pakistan-US ties as it envisages a greater role for India in Afghanistan on the one hand and accuses Islamabad of playing a double game in the fight against terrorism, on the other.

Despite tensions, the two countries agreed to continue bilateral engagement after Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met US Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.

More recently, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif also visited Washington where he held wide-ranging talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Following the high-level parleys, it was announced that Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis would visit Islamabad later this month.

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A Foreign Office statement, issued after the talks at the foreign ministry, said 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.

The statement said that the US side appreciated Pakistan’s contribution towards the fight against terrorism. The delegation was informed about efforts for eliminating terrorism from the Pakistani soil as well as Islamabad’s concerns on continued attacks from across the border.

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 about the recent visits by Pakistani officials to Kabul with a view to intensifying engagement with Afghanistan and addressing mutual concerns, particularly the border management and repatriation of refugees.

The US delegation was informed about the atrocities and human rights violations being committed by the Indian forces in the occupied Kashmir. It was noted that persistent Indian refusal to engage with Pakistan for a comprehensive dialogue was adversely impacting regional stability.

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The US delegation 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 statement said. The two sides agreed to continue bilateral engagements at all levels.

The ISPR said in a separate statement that the US delegation briefed the army chief on contours of US strategy for South Asia. “Discussion focused on regional security situation including Afghanistan and how Pakistan has positively contributed towards peace and stability in the region,” it added.

General Bajwa highlighted Pakistan concerns regarding peace and stability in the region. He reiterated that Pakistan had done its best despite constraints and would continue its efforts for the sake of the future of the country in line with the aspirations of the Pakistani people.

The delegation appreciated and acknowledged Pakistan Army’s contributions and Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror, said the ISPR, the media wing of the military.

Courtesy By: https://tribune.com.pk/

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