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It was a good meeting,Ice has been thawed: Shah Mehmood Qureshi

06 September, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: An impasse in relations with US has been broken in talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his day-long visit to Islamabad, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed on Wednesday.

“It was a good meeting … we met, listened, understood, talked and then decided on a next meeting. Ice has been thawed,” Qureshi told reporters at a press conference following the conclusion of the high-profile visit. “They have agreed that the blame and shame game is not good as it only vitiates the atmosphere. Yes, we have different issues and we will be thinking differently but our objectives are same. I feel that today’s meeting has set the stage to reset the environment for bilateral relations, and the lack of trust that was present has been broken which is a very positive development,” he said. “I’m pleased to announce that Secretary Pompeo invited me to the US. When I will go to New York for the UN conference, I intend to engage with them once more,” he added.

“I told them, and they also agreed, that there is no benefit of a ‘he said, she said’ narrative. I told them that if you want to proceed with Pakistan, the foundation lies in trust, frank and candid conversation. And until and unless we address concerns from both the sides, progress is not possible,” Qureshi said. “Finger pointing will get us nowhere. The other way is to understand where the gaps are and how to bridge those gaps. I identified a lot of those gaps and presented it to them. Where our narratives are different on similar issues,” he maintained.

Qureshi said he ‘responsibly’ presented Pakistan’s stance during the interaction with US officials. “From the body language, you should have gauged that the meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere. We tried to understand their wishes and put forth our own expectations and concerns,” he said.

Qureshi said that he decided not to raise the US decision of scrapping the $300 million aid to Pakistan. “This wasn’t a new decision,” he said. “That decision was taken before this government took charge. I gave this matter some thought then I decided against raising it because free nations think along the lines of self-sufficiency. We will take a new direction,” he said, adding, “Our relations are not limited to trade and barter.”

Qureshi said that contrary to the media’s claim that Washington would press Islamabad to do more in the fight against terrorism, the US delegation conveyed a ‘willingness to move forward’.

He said the US administration has reviewed its policy in Afghanistan and now it is amenable to talks with the Taliban in an effort to end the 16-year-old conflict in the troubled country.

Regarding the US delegation’s meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Qureshi said, “During the meeting at the PM Office, we all sat down and exchanged views. In the past, they used to come, meet the PM separately and then visit the GHQ. However, today’s meeting sent a clear message that we all are on the same page.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan looked forward to strengthening its relationship with the US based on trust and respect, a statement issued by the PM Office after meeting with the visiting dignitaries said. Prime Minister Khan said his government’s agenda was focussed on human development and poverty alleviation for which peace and stability in the region was a pre-requisite. He also underscored his commitment to peace with all neighbours.

He shared Pakistan’s perspective on the situation in the region and reiterated its desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Secretary Pompeo congratulated the prime minister on forming the government. He appreciated the prime minister’s agenda of socio-economic development and conveyed the desire of the US administration to work with Pakistan to achieve the common objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

Earlier, speaking to media from his airplane en route to Islamabad, Pompeo said he hopes to reset the relations between the two countries. “We hope that both countries could leave the past behind and begin to make progress,” Pompeo said. “We will have three opportunities to walk through the complexity that is this relationship and hopefully begin to make some progress so that we can get back to set of common understandings. So that’s really the very straightforward objective,” the secretary of state said regarding his visit.

Pompeo also indicated that the Trump administration could release aid to Pakistan that was halted earlier this year. “Pakistan was told this past summer that they weren’t likely to get that money,” the secretary said.

Stating that the rationale for Pakistan not getting the money is very clear, he said, “It’s that we haven’t seen the progress that we need to see from them. And the very reason for this trip is to try and articulate what it is our expectation is, the things that they can do, the things that they expect us to do, and see if we can’t find a path forward together.”

Pompeo stressed on Pakistan’s assistance and help to resolve issues related to stability in Afghanistan. “We need Pakistan to seriously engage to help us get to the reconciliation we need in Afghanistan,” he said and mentioned General Nicholson and General Miller having the same opinion on the issue.

Pakistanis have “important interests, security interests in Afghanistan to make sure they get the issues at their border right, and we need their help,” Pompeo said. He was also hopeful that his trip could convince the new government in Pakistan to provide the assistance for reconciliation in Afghanistan.

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