The White House is yet to confirm the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the United States – earlier announced by Islamabad – as the Foreign Office (FO) cautioned “against speculation” regarding the all-important one-on-one between the two world leaders.
“To my knowledge, that [Imran’s visit] has actually not been confirmed by the White House,” said US Department of State Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus in a press briefing on Tuesday.
The spokesperson added that she has read reports of the visit, but it is up to the White House “to confirm or not confirm” the visit.
“I know that I have read the same reports that you have, but I would reach out to the White House to confirm or not confirm that visit, but that’s – we don’t have anything to announce here from the State Department,” she said in response to a question regarding expected meetings between the US and Pakistani leadership.
However, the FO said that Islamabad is in “close contact with the US side”.
FO Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal added that formal announcements for such events are made at an appropriate time.
On July 4, the FO confirmed that PM Imran will meet President Donald Trump on July 22 at the White House. Pakistani officials had stated that the visit is meant to reset bilateral ties between the two countries.
The visit, if it happens, will be significant given the fact that this would be the first high-level interaction between the two countries during the tenure of President Trump.
Diplomatic sources had claimed the visit was finalised after hectic behind the scene efforts by the two sides through diplomatic channels. Observers believe that Trump’s willingness to meet Imran suggests that the two sides might have made forward movement on certain issues particularly Afghanistan.
Trump has been critical of Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism especially Islamabad’s role in Afghanistan. His administration has suspended security and other assistance to Pakistan, accusing it of ‘lies and deceit.’
Earlier this year, Trump and Imran had a war of words on Twitter over Pakistan’s role in fighting terrorism. But a flurry of exchanges between the two countries appear to have eased friction and paved the way for the much-anticipated summit meeting between Trump and Imran.
Officials said the premier would share his perspective on the Afghan endgame as well as how to build trust between the two countries. Faisal said there was an acknowledgment of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan by the US.
Just ahead of the prime minister’s visit, the US declared Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) a global terrorist organisation. The BLA has been behind a number of terrorist attacks in the Balochistan province. Pakistan proscribed the BLA back in 2006 and urged other countries to do the same. The latest move by the US, according to Pakistan, would help shrink space for the terrorist outfit to operate.