US vows cooperative spirit in counterterrorism engagement with Pakistan


 WASHINGTON, May 5 :  The United States wants to engage Islamabad on the issue of counterterrorism in a cooperative spirit, the State Department said. 

The State Department pledge came amid continuing differences between the two countries over the use of American drone strikes against suspected militant targets on Pakistani territory.

 

“We’re trying to engage with the Pakistani Government after this parliamentary review.  I can’t address your specific question, but when it comes to counterterrorism, we’re certainly going to listen to their views and share our own in a spirit, I think, of collaboration and cooperation,” State Department Deputy spokesman Mark Toner said at the daily briefing.

 

The spokesman, however, did not have an update on possible next visits, after last week’s talks between the two sides in Islamabad failed to find common ground on some contentious issues in bilateral relations.

 Pakistan’s Parliament has demanded an immediate end to drone strikes and on Saturday, the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad termed the latest drone attacks against suspected militant targets in North Waziristan as counterproductive and violative of its sovereignty.

The parliament in Islamabad reviewed relations between the two countries in the wake of November 26, 2011 NATO attacks on Pakistani border posts in Salala, which resulted in deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and  severely strained the bilateral ties.

The United States has expressed deep regrets over the loss of Pakistani soldiers in the November 26 cross-border strikes but is yet to apologize, as demanded by the parliament

On the contentious drone attacks issues,  the Obama administration officials say their use against militant hideouts on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border, is only meant to curb the al-Qaeda threat and that Washington respects Pakistan’s sovereignty.

The issue has become all the more sensitive in view of political climate in both countries as they near elections. Last year discovery of al-Qaeda chief in Pakistan and the May 2 raid that took out Osama bin Laden from his Abbottabad hideout also strained relations between the two countries.

The United States and Pakistan have been close allies in the fight against terror and their cooperative efforts since September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have led to elimination of several dangerous al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Washington is eager that Islamabad reopen two key NATO supply routes – shut down after November 26, 2011 strikes –  so that the Obama administration may proceed with its withdrawal plan in accordance with 2014 deadline of handing over security responsibility to Afghan forces.

 Sources: MGCT, State Department, Pakistan Foreign Ministry

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