Clinton hopes ties with Pakistan to improve after NATO supplies restoration

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

TOKYO: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday expressed the hope that US-Pakistani relations would improve after Pakistan agreed to reopen NATO supplies into Afghanistan last week.

The US secretary of state met Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in Tokyo on Sunday and told reporters they were both encouraged by last week’s agreement. Clinton’s apology for NATO’S killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in November ended Pakistan’s seven-month freeze on the supply routes. Clinton said the US and Pakistan wanted to build on the deal with greater counter-terrorism and economic cooperation. She said she had also discussed stalled Afghan reconciliation efforts with Khar. “We are both encouraged that we’ve been able to put the recent difficulties behind us so we can focus on the many challenges ahead of us,” Clinton told reporters. “We want to use the positive momentum generated by our recent agreement to take tangible steps on our many shared, core interests.”

Clinton said the US-Pakistani relationship remained challenging for both despite the reopening of Pakistani land routes for NATO supplies. The most important of these, Clinton said, was fighting militant groups who’ve used Pakistan as a rear base to attack American troops and jeopardize the future of Afghanistan.She said in her meeting with Khar, they “focused on the necessity of defeating the terror networks that threat the stability of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the interests of the United States”. However, Clinton acknowledged that ties between the two wary allies would still be tested in the future.

“We also discussed economic support and the goal of moving towards more trade then aid as part of our economic relationship,” she said.“Obviously there’s a lot of follow-up work that has to be done. I’ve said a number of times that this is a challenging and essential relationship. It remains so,” Clinton added. “I have no reason to believe that it will not continue to raise hard questions for us both, but it is something I think is in the interests of the United States as well as Pakistan,” the top US diplomat said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar later met Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul for the First Ministerial Level Core Group Trilateral Meeting.The three sides agreed to work together for the Afghan peace process and committed to break ties with international terrorism, renounce violence and abide by Afghanistan’s constitution.A joint statement issued after the meeting called for “the armed opposition to abandon violence and enter a dialogue with the Afghan government”.

The three diplomats also stressed that the “great effort and sacrifice by the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and the international community has decimated al Qaeda’s core leadership in the region”.Speaking at the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan earlier, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said peace and stability in Afghanistan was a core national goal for Pakistan.She said peace and stability in Afghanistan was contingent upon commitment by regional countries for not using Afghanistan’s soil to destabilize its neighbors.