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U.S., Pakistan to resume strategic dialogue

Aug. 2, 2013 at 12:26 AM   |   Comments

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ISLAMABAD, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- The United States and Pakistan have agreed to resume their stalled strategic dialogue, visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Islamabad.

The dialogue to build a comprehensive sustainable partnership between the two countries has been interrupted since October 2010 and since 2011 when 24 Pakistani soldiers at a post near the border with Afghanistan died in an U.S. airstrike.

"I'm pleased to announce that today very quickly we were able to agree to a resumption of the Strategic Dialogue in order to foster a deeper, broader, and more comprehensive partnership between our countries," Kerry said Thursday at a media availability after his meeting with Pakistan's newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The U.S. official was accompanied by Sartaz Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Sharif.

"And this revitalized dialogue will address in a realistic fashion all of the many key issues between us, from border management to counterterrorism to promoting U.S. private investment and to Pakistan's own journey to economic revitalization," Kerry said.

The current visit by Kerry is his first as secretary of state, although he had made numerous trips to Pakistan earlier as U.S. senator.

Kerry said the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is not only about combating terrorism, it is also about supporting the people of Pakistan and helping in Pakistan's economic revival, which is the centerpiece of Sharif's governing efforts.

Relations between the two countries also have been affected by U.S. drone strikes against militants using Pakistan's tribal regions as sanctuaries to launch attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistanis want these strikes stopped as they are seen as a violation of their sovereignty. It was also in 2011 when a U.S. military team killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden during a raid on his Pakistani compound.

Kerry said the United States "is committed to a long-term partnership with the people of Pakistan, and we remain fully engaged in building a relationship that is based on mutual interests and mutual respect. And we are working closely with the new government in order to advance a shared vision of the future that is marked by peace, by stability, and by prosperity."

In his comments, Aziz said it was agreed the resumption of the strategic dialogue process and holding of the next ministerial-level dialogue would be within the next six months. He said the time had arrived to realize the objective of "transforming U.S.-Pakistan relations from a transactional to a sustainable strategic partnership."

The Pakistani official also said he "reiterated Pakistan's clear commitment to facilitating U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and supporting any Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution and reconciliation for peace and stability in Afghanistan."

He said he briefed Kerry about a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy his government is formulating in consultation with all the stakeholders.

"We also shared our concerns on the drone strikes which Pakistan not only considers a violation of our sovereignty but it's also counterproductive as they undermine the overall counterterrorism cooperation efforts," he said.

Kerry also announced he extended an invitation to Sharif to meet President Barack Obama to discuss bilateral matters.

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