ISLAMABAD – British Foreign Secretary William Hague is reaching Pakistan today, hours after the US technical team left Pakistan Monday, apparently to help the two estranged allies resolve deadlock over crucial issues relating to US apology and Pakistan’s reopening of Nato supplies.
Mr Hague would meet Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar today (Tuesday) to discuss the outcome of the exhaustive US-Pakistan technical level talks, reopening of Nato supplies, regional security as well as Pak-UK bilateral ties. Senior government officials told The Nation that the British Foreign Secretary’s visit was more to help finalise the price tag between Pakistan and Nato for reopening of ground supplies of the western military alliance which remain blocked by Pakistan following US air strikes on Salala border post that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November. They were upbeat that standoff between Pakistan and the United States over apology issue and price tag would be resolved soon under an amicable package deal Pakistan has been seeking in technical talks with the US spanning over six weeks. Before leaving Islamabad, the US Assistant Secretary of Defence Peter Lavoy who flew to Pakistan last week to help finalise a package deal, was disappointed when he tried to seek meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani.
Sources were of the view that GHQ politely declined the request on the grounds that since crucial issues were being discussed at government level and in line with the recommendations of the parliament, such a meeting was not relevant at this point of time. On the other hand, sources in the US Embassy, while down playing dramatic decision of the US team to leave Pakistan, maintained that it was a technical team, which has been negotiating technical issues with Pakistan. The US team has left Pakistan after wrapping up technical issues including price tag for NATO goods, US Embassy’s acting spokesperson Robert Raines told The Nation. He dismissed the notion that technical talks between the US and Pakistan have ever discussed issue related to tendering of US apology. “I do not know about it. The two sides have been discussing technical issues,” Raines added.
However, some other diplomatic sources from the European Union were still optimistic that a package deal between the US and Pakistan has been concluded to be signed by the two countries. They believed that since tendering of US apology was a political issue, Washington would decide about it, dropping the hints that US government has agreed and only modalities related to it were left. US-Pakistan relations worsened after Pakistan blocked ground supplies of the western military alliance in November and Pakistan’s parliament approved set of recommendations for the government, linking the reopening of Nato supplies with the US apology over its brutal Salala air attack. The recommendations seeking new rules of engagement with the erstwhile strategic partner also demanded written agreement in future and immediate end to US drone attacks which tantamount to breaching Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty. -Thenation