By Elise Labott
The United States and Pakistan sought to repair damaged ties ahead of a review by Pakistan's parliament on how the relationship between the two countries should go forward.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar for more than an hour Thursday on the sidelines of a conference in London on Somalia.The meeting was largely symbolic, as Pakistan has in essence halted much of its cooperation with the United States while its parliament reassess future terms of engagement with Washington following the U.S. airstrike in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the border with Afghanistan.
Khar told Clinton the parliamentary recommendations would not be unveiled until next month, after the country elects and swears in a new senate, a senior State Department official told reporters after the meeting.
Clinton told the minister the Obama administration respected the Pakistani parliament's right to debate the issue, but said the United States was eager to "get back to business with Pakistan" on issues of shared interest, including counter-terrorism and Afghan reconciliation talks with the Taliban once the review was complete. She also laid out her vision for how the U.S.-Pakistan relationship would look going forward, the official said.
Clinton also floated the idea of high-level visits by officials such as Deputy Secretary Tom Nides and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, as well possible aid the United States can provide in the future.
The Pakistani government rejected a NATO report that blamed misunderstandings on both sides for the deadly border incident, and closed NATO supply routes across its borders to Afghanistan.
Anti-American sentiment in Pakistan has also been fueled by anger over the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a compound in Pakistan last May, and continued American drone strikes on targets in the nation.
For its part, Washington has questioned Islamabad's resolve to fight extremism, and has slashed military aid to Pakistan.
A classified NATO report leaked earlier this month said Pakistan's secret services are assisting the Taliban in carrying out attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan, a charge Khar said was false. U.S. have officials openly discussed how the Taliban can operate freely from Pakistan.
"From its Pakistani safe havens, the Taliban leadership remains confident of eventual victory," said Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.
While Khar told Clinton that Pakistan would welcome a return to working with the United States, the official did not sugar-coat the difficulties of rebuilding the relationship after what is expected to be tough recommendations from parliament.
"They will, I think, very much respect what it is the parliament has to say," she said of Pakistan's civilian government.
Before her meeting with Clinton, Khar told reporters parliament was currently looking at "terms of re-engagement" with the United States.
"We hope that, for the goals that we share that of peace and stability within the region, Pakistan and the United States will be able to foster their ties. However, there are certain pre-conditions for that," Khar said.
She said the United States should work to establish a "predictable, transparent and sustainable" relationship with Pakistan based on both countries' mutual interest.
In the past, "a different type of relationship has been pursued in the dark of night and a different type in daylight," Khar said. "We hope to be able to combine the two and bring this relationship credibility (in the eyes of) the people of Pakistan."