John Kerry hails Pakistan ties as he hosts PM Sharif at start of his visit to Washington

WASHINGTON: Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday highlighted the vitality of US-Pakistan relationship as he warmly welcomed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the State Department at the start of the Pakistani leader’s four-day visit that includes key talks with President Barack Obama.

“We’re very happy to have you here,” Secretary Kerry said to Prime Minster Sharif in the presence of reporters before the dinner meeting. He noted that the Pakistani leader is visiting Washington for the first time since his last trip in 1999.

The US “relationship with Pakistan could not be more important,” Kerry said while underscoring Pakistan’s vital significance to regional stability, as the democratic country addresses the challenges of economy and insurgency simultaneously.

“We have a lot to talk about and the relationship with Pakistan could not be more important. On its own, a democracy that is working hard to get its economy moving and deal with insurgency which is also important to the regional stability,’ the US diplomat said.

On importance of the prime minister’s visit to the bilateral relationship, the top American diplomat said, Prime Minister Sharif will have a series of high-level meetings including discussions with Vice President Joseph Biden and President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday.

We’re very anxious to have a series of high-level, important discussions over the course of the next few days – the Vice President, the President, (&) tonight’s dinner,” Kerry remarked.