Drone issue might come up in talks between U.S.A and Pakistan

Saturday, April 14th, 2012 6:43:29 by

The United States has indicated that the issue of drone strikes may also come up for discussion in future talks with Pakistan, although a State Department official noted that Washington never encourages public discussions on intelligence
matters. On Tuesday, a joint parliamentary committee in Islamabad unanimously adopted new rules of engagement for rebuilding Pakistan’s ties with the world’s only remaining superpower.

The recommendations call for an immediate halt to drone strikes in Fata and promise to reopen supply routes for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, provided those are not used for brining weapons.

The recommendations also demand an unconditional apology from the US over the Nov. 26 airstrike on a Pakistani military post that killed 24 soldiers and caused the closing of supply routes. At a news briefing at the State Department,
spokesman Mark Toner was asked if the United States would also discuss the drone issue when it held talks with Pakistan on these recommendations.

“No, I can’t talk about any intelligence matters from the podium,” the official replied. But “we have very robust counterterrorism cooperation.” Reminded that Pakistan had already put the drone issue on the table, Mr Toner said:
“I will just say that we’re gonna talk about all aspects of our relationship moving forward.”

Asked if counter terrorism cooperation between the two countries included the drone strikes, Mr Toner said: “I cannot address that point.” He added: “Let these conversations move forward. We’re not going to take anything off the
table or put anything on the table.”

The US official made clear that Washington wanted to build a “very constructive relationship” with Islamabad and was willing to engage Pakistan on the parliamentary recommendations as well to achieve this objective. “We are ready
to engage with the Pakistani government on this parliamentary review and on the issues that it has raised,” Mr Toner told a briefing in Washington.

“You know we want to build a very constructive relationship with Pakistan and one that is based on mutual understanding,” he said. The State Department official said that although no visits or meetings had yet been planned for
talks with Pakistan on the recommendations, one senior US official arrived in Islamabad on Saturday.

USAID chief Rajiv Shah has already met the Pakistani foreign minister and was scheduled to meet President Zardari for talks on US civilian assistance to Pakistan, indicating the US desire to stay engaged with Islamabad.

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