Pakistani FM hopeful on rebuilding ties with US

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – Pakistan’s foreign minister said Wednesday that he held constructive talks with top U.S. officials and was hopeful the two countries would be able to rebuild relations.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the comments during a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace titled Pakistan's New Government: Change or Continuity in Foreign Policy?

Qureshi discussed a number of different topics, including the government's commitment to the global Pakistani diaspora and relations between Pakistan and India.

His speech followed a round of meetings Tuesday with top U.S. officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

The main point Qureshi stressed in his speech was the hope he had in Pakistan’s ability to rebuild relations with the U.S.

"The last two years I would say were difficult. And let's acknowledge that they were difficult. And one is here to reconnect, and one is here to rebuild what, in my view, is an important relationship to achieve our collective objective, which is peace, reconciliation and stability," he said.

This is the second term as foreign minister for Qureshi, who also served under former president Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2008.

Qureshi said he was expecting to encounter hawkish opposition during his U.S. visit but was instead met with open ears.

"I felt that Secretary Pompeo was ready to listen, which I thought was very positive," he said. "I thought that they [U.S. officials] were ready to listen."

U.S.-Pakistani relations had taken a turn for the worse in recent years, with the U.S. announcing a $300 million cut in military aid to Pakistan earlier this year.

In January, U.S. President Donald Trump attacked Pakistan on Twitter, saying it was not doing enough to stop terrorism.

"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" Trump tweeted.

The main sticking point between the two sides has been the issue of the Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan over which the U.S. has engaged in a 17-year-long military operation.

But officials of the two countries have met numerous times over the past two months. In September, Pompeo visited Pakistan and met with Qureshi and newly elected prime minister Imran Khan.

“The U.S. wants Pakistan to play its role for negotiations and reconciliation in Afghanistan. This is what our policy and desire is. We want peace and stability in Afghanistan, and I have fully assured them in this regard,” Qureshi said at a news conference after meeting with Pompeo in Islamabad.

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