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US backs Pakistan move to hold talks with Taliban

25 October, 2013

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WASHINGTON: The United States Thursday expressed backing for Pakistani initiative to start dialogue with Tehreek-e-Taliban, noting that the move has strong domestic consensus.

Speaking at the conclusion of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit, a senior State Department official said the US has no objection to the aims laid out in the negotiated approach. "He (PM Nawaz Sharif) indicated his intentions (to hold talks with the Taliban) and we indicated our support," the official said in a background discussion with the Pakistani media when asked about Washington's response to Islamabad's initiative. Before his departure for home, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the media that the US was informed that Pakistan had made a conscious decision on holding talks with the TTP as part of efforts to contain militancy and that Washington should support Islamabad's decision.

The US official, while expressing support for the move explained: "It is his decision. We are not trying to steer him in one direction or another. We certainly have no objections that there is a strong domestic consensus in, at least, trying a negotiated approach." "As we understand the conditions are that the TTP has to accept the constitution and the rule of law, and of course we accept those objectives. We support those objectives," the official added. Senior State Department and administration officials told the media that the prime minister's election and assumption of power offered a "renewed" opportunity for the two countries to discuss the continued key bilateral relationship and that the visit was marked by "warmth, breadth and honesty in fulsome discussions".

The senior officials said President Barack Obama appreciated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resolve to address challenges facing Pakistan, including eliminating terrorism and militancy on the Afghan border as well as his commitment to seek peace with neighbours India and Afghanistan. The senior State Department official said the Pakistani side noted that violence along the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir region as a major obstacle to progress in relationship with India.

While discussing his talks with Indian counterpart, Nawaz Sharif spoke about addressing the issue of Kashmir, LoC violations through a mechanism involving directors general of military operations but also asked the United States to encourage continued progress of Pakistan India dialogue, the officials said. In response, the United States pledged to use its influence towards that end. "We very much support improvements in this (Pakistan-India) relationship and we will continue to use our influence with both governments to encourage them to move in that direction."

The senior officials reaffirmed strong and continued support for Pakistani efforts to curb militancy and terrorism for peace and stability in the region. "Pakistan will continue to receive substantial economic and security assistance as it continues to pursue these objectives", he added. A senior Obama administration official said it was clear during the discussions that the United States shares Pakistan's interest in becoming a stable and democratic country.

End.

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