Britain voices concern over Pak-US deadlock
13 June, 2012
ISLAMABAD: British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday expressed his concern over the deadlock between Islamabad and Washington over reopening of NATO supply line.
Addressing a joint press conference along with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, he said, "Of course, Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) into Afghanistan is an issue of concern for UK but it is also an issue between Pakistan and the US."
GLOC into Afghanistan were blocked after November's attack at Salala checkpost that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
On Monday, Washington also called in its negotiators as talks failed to restore the supply.
To a question, Hague said that he had raised the issue with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Hina Rabbani Khar.
"Obviously, we want this issue to be resolved and of course we raised it and discussed it today."
Turning to his visit to Pakistan, Hague praised the democratic process in the country. "My visit here has confirmed to me what an important time this is for your country. The coming elections will be a crucial milestone in Pakistan's democratic history: the first time one civilian government will succeed another one at an election. A strong, stable, constitutional democracy is firmly in Pakistan's interests and will be welcomed by all Pakistan's friends, including the United Kingdom and across all parties in the United Kingdom."
"The government here has made such a strong public commitment on those elections," he said, adding that Gilani, following his meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, said that his government was committed to holding free and fair elections in accordance with the constitution.
"I hope all political parties in Pakistan will be committed to playing their part in that."
"Our discussions today have covered the enhanced strategic dialogue between our countries, Pakistan's trade relationship with Europe, regional security issues including the future of Afghanistan."
On economic matters, he said that the recent budget highlighted the challenges Pakistan was facing.
"The global economic crisis is requiring countries around the world to make tough decisions," he said.
"I think it was a very successful visit and indeed added to the strengths of our ties in trade and investment and the plans we have to boost trade so significantly by 2015."
He also vowed to support Pakistan in the European Union.
Foreign Minister Khar reiterated Pakistan's stance that any decision over restoration of NATO supplies would be taken in light of parliamentary resolution.
She said Pakistan was a democratic country and it was necessary to implement resolutions of parliament for the continuation of democratic process.
"Pakistan and the US are holding talks over the NATO supplies resumption and both countries have moved for a new agreement and technical affairs have been discussed, but any decision would be taken in light of resolution of parliament," she said.
"UK is a friend of Pakistan and our relations proceed for several decades and the support of UK is very important for Pakistan in various sectors and it is expected this support will be elevated in the future," the foreign minister stated.
Pak-UK ties based on commonality of interests: Gilani
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Tuesday both Pakistan and the United Kingdom enjoyed excellent relations based on commonality of interests.
He said that the first annual review of Enhanced Strategic Dialogue between both countries in London last month added a new depth to strategic partnership, which manifested resolve of both countries to take the relations to new heights.
The prime minister expressed these views while talking to British Secretary of State for Foreign and Common Affairs William Hague.
The prime minister said that comprehensive strategic dialogue covered areas of trade and investment, economic growth and development, defence and security and cultural and educational exchange between the two countries. Recalling his visit to the UK last month, Gilani said that he had very productive meetings with the British leadership, including businessmen, vice chancellors and members of parliament. He particularly mentioned British Prime Minister David Cameron's statement that "Pakistan's friends were Britain's friends and Pakistan's enemies were Britain's enemies".
Gilani said that power shortages had hampered the pace of economic growth. He said that immense investment opportunities existed in the energy sector in Pakistan. He said that over 100 UK-based companies were doing profitable business in Pakistan and British companies should explore investment opportunities in this sector. The prime minister said that he also took up the issue of transfer of civil nuclear deal with the US administration in an effort to overcome energy crisis in Pakistan. He said that the US promised to extend possible assistance to Pakistan to address power shortages by tapping hydel, coal and wind resources.
He appreciated the UK's support to Pakistan for waiver of tariff and enhanced market access to Pakistani exports under Generalised System of Preferences (GSP plus). About Afghanistan, the prime minister said that Pakistan wanted an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, which should not destabilise Pakistan as was the case during 1990s when Pakistan was left alone to take care of 3.5 million Afghan refugees.
Gilani said that he would be visiting Afghanistan in the near future to hold talks with President Hamid Karzai. The prime minister said that the president of Pakistan made history by addressing parliament for the fifth time, which was unprecedented in the parliamentary history of the country. Gilani also mentioned restoration of "true parliamentary character of the 1973 constitution as a result of amendments introduced by the present democratic government".
He said that the 18th Amendment had conferred provincial autonomy on the federating units and the 7th NFC Award increased shares of provinces in national divisible pool. He also mentioned legal reforms in FCR in FATA and economic and administrative powers for Gilgit-Baltistan under the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment And Self-Governance Order 2009. Speaking on the occasion, William Hague congratulated the prime minister on presenting a balanced budget, which was also the fifth budget of the democratic government.
The British foreign secretary said that the UK valued relations between Pakistan and the US as former enjoyed excellent relations with both Islamabad and Washington. He also supported Pakistan's policy of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, adding that its success would contribute to the stability of the region. Separately, during a meeting with William Hague, President Asif Ali Zardari said the people of Pakistan recognised and appreciated understanding and appreciation of their sacrifices in the war against terrorism by the UK government.
The two leaders discussed Pak-UK bilateral relations, UK's assistance to Pakistan, bilateral trade, war against terror and the regional situation. Expressing satisfaction over the progress made so far under the umbrella of Enhanced Strategic Dialogue (ESD), the president said that ESD was a manifestation of "our common resolve to comprehensively upgrade our relationship".