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Pak to continue cooperation with USA for peace and security in the region: FO

23 June, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday underscored the need for continued cooperation between the United States and Pakistan for peace and security in the region.

“Pakistan attaches importance to its relationship with the US. We firmly believe that continued close cooperation between our two countries is critical for promoting peace and security in the region and beyond,” FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria said at his weekly media briefing.

Replying to a question about a Reuters report that the Trump administration was mulling a tougher line towards Pakistan, the spokesman refused to directly comment on the contents of the report, but observed that the bilateral relationship was important and there was a need for remaining engaged.

It is said that the Trump administration wants to force Pakistan into addressing its concerns about terrorism. Among the actions being considered by the US against Pakistan are expansion in drone attacks, withholding aid and downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-Nato ally. But no definitive measures have been decided yet, according to the report.

US concerns about Pakistan’s fight against terrorism precede Trump presidency. The concerns were reiterated during the visit of US National Security Adviser Lt Gen McMaster to Pakistan in April, which was the first high level visit by a senior Trump administration official. Gen McMaster had, during his meetings in Pakistan, “stressed the need to confront terrorism in all its forms”. In media interviews during his trip, the general had said it was in Pakistan’s interest to go after terrorist groups less selectively than in the past.

Mr Zakaria rejected US concerns and said: “On terrorism, I would like to point out that our counter-terrorism operations are driven by our own national interest and are directed against all terrorists without discrimination and distinction. It remains our firm resolve not to let our soil be used against any country. We are determined to that end.”

The US State Department’s budget proposals for fiscal 2018 indicate a major cut in funds for Pakistan from its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme as they recommend a reduction from $255 million in the current fiscal to just $100m in 2018. The Trump administration has further proposed to the State Department to convert the FMF for Pakistan into a loan guarantee.

The spokesman refused to comment on the proposed cut saying it was premature. The budget request, he noted, would undergo vigorous debate and scrutiny by the US Congress.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is visiting Pakistan on Saturday in an effort to defuse tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The Chinese foreign minister will be visiting over the weekend. Both sides will discuss all issues of mutual interest, including the regional situation,” the spokesman said.

He said China was an important partner in efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. He recalled that China and Pakistan were working closely under the initiatives like the Quadrilateral Coordination Group and the Heart of Asia Istanbul process, which were aimed at bringing lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The Chinese foreign minister will later travel to Afghanistan.

There is a possibility of a trilateral meeting being arranged between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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