US-Pakistan talks prompt vow to reset ties after prolonged spat
Islamabad, Pakistan – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has held talks with Pakistan’s prime minister and foreign minister, as the two erstwhile strategic allies seek to mend ties that Pakistan has said have become “almost non-existent” in recent months.
Pompeo met Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Wednesday, in a set of talks both sides described as a “positive beginning” to rebuilding the relationship.
Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose institution has ruled Pakistan for roughly half its history and still controls aspects of security and foreign policy, was also part of the talks.
“We have still got a long way to go, lots more discussion to be had,” Pompeo told reporters before leaving Islamabad for his next stop, the Indian capital New Delhi.
Qureshi will meet Pompeo again in Washington DC later this month, following his attendance of the UN General Assembly. He will also be travelling to Kabul shortly for talks with Afghan authorities, he said.
‘Alignment and convergence‘
The talks on Wednesday focused on opportunities to reset the relationship and for greater cooperation on the war in Afghanistan, particularly on Pakistan’s role in the political reconciliation process with the Taliban, Pakistan’s foreign minister told reporters.
“The US has been evaluating its policy, and they have reached the conclusion that the solution in Afghanistan is a negotiated political settlement,” said Qureshi. “And here once again you will see an alignment and convergence between the US and Pakistan.”
Pakistan and the US have differed greatly over the conflict in Afghanistan, with the United States and Afghanistan often accusing Pakistan of offering sanctuary to leaders of the Afghan Taliban and its ally, the Haqqani Network.
Pakistan denies the charges, saying it has acted indiscriminately against all armed groups on its soil, and in turn accuses Kabul of allowing elements in the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban) to operate in that country’s eastern provinces.
Pompeo said the talks on Wednesday focused on deliverable outcomes.
“We made it clear to them – and they agreed – that it’s time for us to begin to deliver on our joint commitments,” he said. “We have had lots of times where we have talked and made agreements, but we have not been able to actually execute those.”
“And so, there was a broad agreement between myself and Foreign Minister Qureshi, as well as with the prime minister, that we need to begin to do things that will actually begin to deliver, on the ground, outcomes so that we can begin to build confidence and trust between the two countries.”
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, meanwhile, said Pompeo commented on Pakistan’s role in neighbouring Afghanistan and the wider region during the talks.
“In all of his meetings, Secretary Pompeo emphasised the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, and conveyed the need for Pakistan to take sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace and stability,” Nauert said.
The US-Pakistan relationship has remained troubled since President Donald Trump assumed power last year.
In January, Trump cut more than $1.1 billion in security assistance to Pakistan, accusing the country of “lies and deceit” in its role in the Afghan conflict.
On Sunday, the US confirmed that $300 million in a Coalition Support Funds reimbursement, which was initially suspended under that announcement, had been finally cancelled.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi said he did not raise the issue of the funds with Pompeo as he wanted to focus on resetting the atmosphere of the relationship, rather than dwelling on previous decisions.
“Our relationship is not based on transactions, we have to think differently,” he said. “We have to talk not about money, but about principles.”
Qureshi said that if the relationship was to move forward, “it must be based on truth [and] frank, candid conversations”.
“I said this to him, and he agreed, that this blame and shame game does not achieve anything,” he said.
“Yes, we have challenges. On some things, we may think differently, but we have shared objectives as well.”
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim