Qureshi, Frank Ruggiero discuss issues of mutual interest


US Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Frank Ruggiero met with Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi here on Friday.

They discussed a whole range of issues of mutual interest and concern.

At the outset, Foreign Minister Qureshi paid rich tributes to the late Richard Holbrooke for his contributions towards transforming Pakistan – US relations into a long-term partnership.

He said the late Special Representative would be long remembered for his friendship with Pakistan.

Discussing the US Strategic Review on Afghanistan, the Foreign Minister said it was encouraging that the US had acknowledged successes achieved by Pakistan in containing militancy and terrorism.

He underlined that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s strategic interest.

Accordingly, Pakistan, as the immediate neighbor of Afghanistan, would not shirk from taking every step possible to promote and facilitate reconciliation and reintegration in the country as part of the Afghanistan-driven process, he said, adding, it was necessary that Pakistan and US were on the same page.

The Foreign Minister added that the US Review’s emphasis on development and reconciliation was noteworthy.

On Trilateral (Afghanistan-Pakistan-US) Ministerial Meeting to be held in Washington in February this year, the two sides underlined the need for full preparations with a view to achieving maximum tangible results.

The two sides expressed confidence that President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Washington and President Barack Obama`s visit to Pakistan this year would add considerably to the process of strengthening bilateral relations taking them to new heights.

The Foreign Minister said that Pakistan attached immense importance to its relations with the US and was very much encouraged that the process was moving in the right direction.

He added that the disbursement of US economic assistance to Pakistan needed to be accelerated.

The two sides also discussed the next round of Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue to be held in Islamabad. The Foreign Minister said he was looking forward to extending a warm welcome to US Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton to Pakistan.

Foreign Minister Qureshi also raised the issue of continuing drone attacks in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, terming them as counterproductive.

The Acting Special Representative said he was visiting Pakistan under the instructions from Secretary Hillary Clinton to convey to the people of Pakistan that the US would continue with its policy of strengthening its ties with Pakistan in all areas to the two countries’ mutual benefit.

He said the signing of agreements during his visit (worth US$ 256 million) related to the floods damage compensation fund and Satpara and Gomal Zam hydro-power projects was reflective of US’s firm commitment to its partnership with Pakistan.

He informed the Foreign Minister that all efforts would be made to complete the hydro-power projects this year.

Earlier, the Acting Special Representative met with Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. As Co-Chairs of the Policy Steering Group of the Pak-US Strategic Dialogue, they discussed mechanisms to make the dialogue more result- oriented.

It was agreed that the Group should convene in Washington before the next round of the Strategic Dialogue, expected to be held in Islamabad during the first half of this year. They also exchanged views on issues related to counter terrorism.

The Foreign Secretary stressed the need for working together more closely with full understanding of each other’s concerns.