'Friends' mull way forward in ties
25 September, 2012
NEW YORK: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday and held in-depth conversation on the way forward in Pak-US relations.
They also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and how Pakistan and the US could cooperate in help bring peace and stability in the country.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The two leaders discussed bilateral relations and reviewed the recent positive developments in the relationship, including reopening of the Ground Lines of Communications for NATO supply to Afghanistan through Pakistan.
President Zardari told Secretary Clinton peace and stability in Pakistan was tied to peace and stability in Afghanistan. "No country has paid a higher price for the conflict in Afghanistan than Pakistan," the president said.
He also took the opportunity to express the anger of the people of Pakistan over the blasphemous video. He said, "One or two insane persons should not be allowed to endanger world peace in the garb of freedom of expression."
Zardari thanked Clinton for the US assistance and stressed that rather than spreading itself too thin, the US should focus on large signature projects. He also stressed the importance of granting Pakistani products, particularly textiles, greater access to the US market. "Pakistan would rather do trade than depend on aid," the president told Clinton.
On cooperation in trade and economy, Zardari appreciated the recent announcement of multi-year Pakistan Private Initiative based on public-private partnership with up to $80 million of US funding, saying such steps would encourage entrepreneurship for promising Pakistani companies. He expressed the hope that substantial progress would be witnessed in the coming days in the bilateral investment treaty between the two countries.
The president also invited the US to become a partner in the Diamer Basha Dam project. He said this would dispel the impression that the US only worked to its own priorities in Pakistan.
Hillary Clinton on the other hand thanked Zardari for Pakistan's handling of several days of violent anti-US protests. She greeted Zardari as "my friend" and introduced him to the new US ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, who she said had just been sworn in.
"We very much appreciate the strong response of your government," she said at the start of their meeting. "We should build on the positive momentum," Zardari told Clinton.
The president was accompanied by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali, Farooq Sattar and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar. Secretary Clinton was accompanied by Deputy Secretary Tom Nides, Ambassador to Pakistan Marc Grossman, General Douglas Lute, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland and other senior State Department officials.
Meanwhile, President Zardari will highlight the challenges being faced by the international community to promote peace and security at the global level and present Pakistan's point of view to promote religious harmony when he addressed the 67th UN General Assembly session today (Tuesday).
"President Zardari will present Pakistan's efforts and measures taken by Pakistan government for ensuring peace and security at the regional and international level," said Ambassador Masood Khan, while briefing the media late on Sunday regarding the salient features of the president's address to the assembly session.
Ambassador Khan, who especially flew into New York for the General Assembly session, said Pakistan is very important and a key player in maintaining peace and security in the region and its sacrifices had been acknowledged by the international community.
Responding to a question, he said Pakistan had always supported "Afghan-owned" and Afghan-led reconciliation process and would continue to do so in future to ensure peace and security in the region. He said being neighbouring countries, peace in Afghanistan would have a direct impact on Pakistan. He said Pakistan is a member of the Security Council, therefore, it has great concern about peace and security in the region and in the world.
He said President Zardari would meet foreign ministers of China and the US besides holding an important trilateral meeting with leaders of Afghanistan and the UK for finding a permanent solution to the Afghan crisis.