US top diplomat arrives in Pakistan for key talks

 
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Islamabad, Sept. 5 (TNS): Amid stained ties between two countries, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday for crucial talks with Imran government.

Officials of Pakistan Foreign ministry received US delegation at airport.

Pompeo is accompanied by US Joint Chief of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford and is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

He is also expected to meet Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The details of the US envoy’s visit have been kept under wraps, but official sources confirmed that contrary to some reports, the prime minister would give him an audience.

The US secretary of state on Tuesday said he was hoping to “reset the relationship” with Pakistan ahead of the trip and also announced that Zalmay Khalilzad, a high profile former US ambassador, had been named to a new role to lead peace efforts in Afghanistan.

Pompeo’s conciliatory remarks toward the South Asian giant come days after Washington confirmed plans to cancel $300 million in military aid over Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of American strategy in the region.

But the former Central Intelligence Agency director, who is making his first visit as his nation’s top diplomat to Pakistan, whose support is vital in the long-running Afghan conflict, said it was time to “turn the page.”

“So first stop – Pakistan. New leader there, wanted to get out there at the beginning of his time in an effort to reset the relationship between the two countries,” he said.

“There are lot of challenges between our two nations for sure but we’re hopeful that with the new leadership that we can find common ground and we can begin to work on some of our shared problems together,” added Pompeo.

“Look, I think there is a new government this time, most of this took place long before the prime minister was in power and I hope we can turn the page and begin to make progress. But there are real expectations,” he said.

“I’m hopeful we can convince them to provide that assistance,” he continued, adding that in his conversations with Khan, they had agreed that peace in Afghanistan was a “shared goal.”

Pompeo also held out the possibility the military aid could be restored under the right circumstances.

“We were providing these resources when it made sense for the United States because the partnership was in a place where the actions of our two countries made sense to do that,” he said. “If that arises again, I’m confident we’ll present to the president the rationale for that.”

The visit comes as the relationship between the two countries hit a new low — after the cancellation of $300 million in ‘aid’ to Pakistan and a row over the contents of a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Imran and Secretary Pompeo.

The PTI government, however, after initial rhetoric is now treading carefully as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi avoided giving a knee jerk reaction after the Pentagon move to cancel the amount under the Coalition Support Fund.

Qureshi, nevertheless, reminded the US that the cancelled money was not aid but reimbursements of the expanses Pakistan had already incurred in the fight against terrorism.

The foreign minister admitted that there was a near complete breakdown in communication between the two countries during the previous government.