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Nawaz, Obama vow cooperation as tensions ease

24 October, 2013

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WASHINGTON: Seeking to improve a rocky relationship, President Barack Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday pledged cooperation on the security issues that have strained ties between their nations. But the sources of the long-standing tensions did briefly bubble to the surface.

During his meeting with the US president, Prime Minister Nawaz called on him to halt drone attacks, play role in resolution of Kashmir issue, extend help on energy crisis, promote American investment in Pakistan and release Aafia Siddiqui. Meanwhile, President Obama raises the issues of punishing Mumbai attackers, release of Dr Shakil Afridi who helped CIA locate al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and reining in Jamaatud Dawa. Speaking next to Obama in the Oval Office after their meeting, Nawaz said he "brought up the issues of drones during our meeting, emphasising the need for an end to such strikes". Obama did not mention drones when addressing reporters.

But in a joint statement, the two leaders said their partnership was "based on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity". Obama also tried to reassure Pakistan on the status of Afghanistan, where US combat forces plan to withdraw next year. Obama said he was "confident" of a solution "that is good for Afghanistan, but also helps to protect Pakistan over the long term".

Obama hailed Pakistan's sacrifices from extremism. More than 40,000 Pakistanis have died in attacks over the past decade. "I know the prime minister is very much committed to try to reduce this incidence of terrorism inside Pakistan" and also wants to stop its export, Obama said.

President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz held wide-ranging discussions at the White House about the importance of a US-Pakistan partnership built on a foundation of mutual interest and respect. They acknowledged the substantial progress in the bilateral relationship over the last year and noted its resilient nature. The two leaders affirmed US-Pakistan friendship and close cooperation and recalled their positive contributions to international peace and security at crucial junctures during the Cold War and in the post-9/11 period.

Reaffirming the strong relationship between the two countries, they stressed that our enduring partnership is based on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. They expressed their conviction that an enduring US-Pakistan partnership is vital to regional and international security and recognised their shared interest in Pakistan's economic growth and development, regional stability, and mutually determined measures to counter terrorism.

President Obama conveyed appreciation for Pakistan's internal and regional security challenges and affirmed that a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan was an essential partner for the United States in the advancement of shared goals of peace, security, and socio-economic development in South Asia. President Obama congratulated Prime Minister Nawaz on being elected to office in the historic May elections, observing that the smooth democratic transition between two elected governments was a milestone for the democratic institutions in Pakistan.

Affirming that both the United States and Pakistan are committed to democracy, human rights, freedom, and respect for international law, President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz dedicated themselves to deepening and enhancing the relationship between the peoples of the US and Pakistan.

Both leaders welcomed the resumption of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue. They discussed the forthcoming ministerial-level Strategic Dialogue, which Secretary Kerry would be hosting in Washington by March 2014. They also decided on the strategic priorities for the five working groups: 1) Law enforcement and counterterrorism; 2) Economics and finance; 3) Energy; 4) Security, strategic stability, and non-proliferation; and 5) the Defence Consultative Group.

President Obama promised to consider Pakistan's concerns in post-war Afghanistan, but stayed mum on a call by Prime Minister Nawaz to end drone strikes. Obama welcomed Nawaz to the White House after releasing $1.6 billion in aid – mostly for the military – that had been blocked amid high tensions over the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. With US forces preparing to pull out of Afghanistan next year, Obama pledged to brief Nawaz fully and to work toward an Afghanistan that is "stable and secure, its sovereignty respected."

"I'm confident that, working together, we can achieve a goal that is good for Afghanistan, but also helps to protect Pakistan over the long term," Obama told reporters at the Oval Office. The two leaders came together to urge the Taliban "to join the political process and enter into dialogue with the Afghan government".

Calling for greater counter-terrorism cooperation with Washington, Nawaz said: "I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasising the need for an end to such strikes." Obama did mention drones and the two leaders did not take questions.

In their statement, Obama and Sharif "stressed that our enduring partnership is based on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity." He conveyed appreciation for Pakistan's internal and regional security challenges and affirmed that a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan was an essential partner for the United States.

End.

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