Pak seeking to 'reset' strained bilateral ties with US

Pakistan and USA flag
Islamabad, May 22: Pakistan on Saturday, May 21 said its current negotiations with the US are focused on the need to "reset" their bilateral relationship amid the diplomatic row over the unilateral American operation that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the continuing drone campaign.

"Both sides need to get the terms of engagement right.

Both have said often that the partnership approach warrants mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual benefit," said Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua here, noting that a resolution passed by a joint session of parliament on the American raid against bin Laden had called for a review of the "terms of engagement with the US".

A joint statement issued after senior US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry's talks with Pakistan's top leadership too had referred to the need to "reset" the relationship, Janjua said in response to a flurry of questions on the strained bilateral ties in the wake of bin Laden's killing in the garrison city of Abbottabad, close to Islamabad, on May 2.

"All discussions with the US are taking place in this context," she said.

Both sides recognise the importance of the relationship though "over speculation" would not serve any purpose, she said.

Pakistan-US relations have "passed through a period of stress" and Islamabad's communications with Washington "are indicative of the desire to steer the relations in a productive direction", she said.

Referring to American drone attacks in the volatile tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, Janjua said Pakistan had "very clearly said to the US that these are definitely not acceptable".

"We need to move away from unilateral actions towards cooperation which serves the interest of countering terrorism," she underlined.

Asked about US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton''s proposed trip to Pakistan, Janjua said dates for the visit "have not yet been decided".

Clinton was initially scheduled to visit Islamabad by late May for the next round of the Strategic Dialogue with Pakistan but the trip has apparently been put off due to strains caused by the covert US action that killed bin Laden.

US officials have said that Clinton''s visit is expected to go ahead only after the administration assesses the outcome of talks held with Pakistani leaders by Special Envoy Marc Grossman and CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell.

Responding to a question about Grossman's reported remarks that the US had given no guarantee about not repeating a unilateral action like the raid in Abbottabad, Janjua said such issues are being taken up with America.

"We are in the process of re-engaging with the US and the purpose is to get the terms of our engagement right," she said.

A trilateral meeting of senior officials of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US will be held early next week in Kabul to discuss peace and reconciliation in the war-torn country, Janjua said.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir will lead the Pakistani delegation to the meeting.


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