Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday held a meeting with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dunford at the PM House in Islamabad.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar were also present in the PM’s meeting with the US delegation.
‘I decided against raising the $300m issue’: Qureshi
Addressing a press conference at the Foreign Office later in the day, FM Qureshi stressed that the “Pakistani perspective was presented responsibly to the US delegation”.
“You could have guessed by the body language that the meeting was a cordial one. We tried to understand their wishes and put forth our own expectations and concerns.
“I told them that if you want to proceed with Pakistan, the foundation lies in trust, frank and candid conversation. And until and unless we address concerns from both the sides, progress is not possible.
“I’m pleased to announce that Secretary Pompeo invited me to the US. When I will go to New York for the UN conference, I intend to engage with them [US officials] once more,” the minister said.
Regarding the US delegation’s meeting with PM Khan, Qureshi said: “During the meeting at the PM House we all sat down and exchanged views. In the past, they used to come, meet the PM separately and then visit the GHQ. However, today’s meeting sent a clear message that we are all on the same page.”
“Ice has been thawed,” the foreign minister said. “Today we felt that we have created an atmosphere to reset our relations, and the lack of trust that was present has been broken which is a very positive development.
“Believe me, if our narrative had not set in with them, the atmosphere would have been different, your questions to me would have been different and the nature of Pompeo’s tweet before leaving Pakistan would have been different.
“I also told them, and they agreed, that there is no benefit of a ‘he said, she said’ narrative. It only ruins the climate of talks,” the foreign minister said.
Qureshi said that working together was in the best interest of both the countries. “We have been allies, and we have had tensions, but our history shows when we have worked together, it has been in the best interest of both countries. We did this when we worked together to decimate Al Qaeda.
“Finger pointing will get us nowhere. The other way is to understand where the gaps are and where to bridge those gaps. I identified a lot of those gaps and presented it to them. Where our narratives are different on similar issues,” the foreign minister maintained.
Qureshi said that he decided against raising the US decision to scrap the $300m in aid to Pakistan.
“This wasn’t a new decision,” he said. “That decision was taken before this government took charge. I gave this matter some thought then I decided against raising it because free nations think along the lines of self-sufficiency. We will take a new direction.”
US, Pakistan have shared interest in Afghan stability
The foreign minister stressed that peace and stability in neighbouring Afghanistan is in the joint interest of both Pakistan and the US.
He also announced that his “first visit out of Pakistan will be to Afghanistan.
“They are our neighbours; we are joined by geography, culture and tradition,” he said. “Now we need to be each other’s support system and work together too.
“If Pakistan progresses, it will be beneficial to Afghanistan as well and vice versa. As we progress in talks with them, we will keep you informed.”
Pompeo, Qureshi hold talks
Before the meeting at the PM House, FM Qureshi had held the opening round of talks with the Pompeo-led US delegation at the Foreign Office in Islamabad, where the two sides had engaged for 40 minutes and discussed “bilateral, regional and international issues”.
“FM Qureshi underscores the need to reset bilateral ties on basis of mutual trust and respect,” FO spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal stated on Twitter, adding: “Safeguarding Pakistan’s national interests will remain supreme priority.”
Pompeo and Gen Dunford had arrived in Islamabad just before 1pm.
The secretary of state’s plane had landed at the Nur Khan Airbase where he was received by foreign ministry’s Director General (Americas) Dr Zafar Iqbal and American diplomats.
He headed for the US embassy in a motorcade of about 20 white Toyota Land Cruisers and a police escort.