Khawaja Asif to meet Tillerson to defuse tensions between Pak, US

ANI | Updated: Sep 30, 2017 11:38 IST

Lahore [Pakistan], September 30 (ANI): Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif will meet U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to resume bilateral talks and to discuss ways to remove tensions that cropped up after United States President Donald Trump's August 21 speech.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi last week and suggested sending a U.S. delegation to Islamabad for talks aimed at removing tensions.

Islamabad accepted the U.S. proposal but asked for a high-level meeting in Washington to defuse the tensions. Washington accepted the Pakistani argument and invited Asif for a meeting with Secretary Tillerson on Oct 4.

President Trump had blamed Pakistan for maintaining alleged safe havens for terrorists, threatened economic and military sanctions against Islamabad and announced a larger role for India in Afghanistan, ignoring Pakistan's concerns.

Annoyed by the U.S. President's speech, both opposition and ruling parties unanimously adopted a resolution in the Parliament, urging the government to reconsider its relations with the United States. Some opposition parties also asked the government to downgrade its ties with U.S. and further strengthen its strong relations with China.

On October 5, the foreign minister will be addressing a gathering at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), in U.S. on US-Pakistan relations.

Pakistani officials also warned that since this was the election year in Pakistan, this rhetoric may get worse before it starts to improve. They also suggested that a high-level meeting between the foreign policy chiefs of the two countries would help bring down the temperatures, the Dawn reported.

"We don't have anything to announce at this time," said a State Department official when asked to confirm the Tillerson-Asif talks.

The USIP, however, confirmed the talk, pointing out that President Trump's August 21 speech had not only "unsettled US-Pakistan relations," but also had "serious implications for US interests in Afghanistan, nuclear non-proliferation, and stability in the region."

Asif, during speech earlier this week at the Asia Society in New York, acknowledged that jihadi elements particularly Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hafiz Saeed had become a liability for Pakistan.

Asif said that during the Afghan war (1979-89), the U.S. and its allies encouraged such elements from across the world to come to the region to fight the Soviet Union. Instead of staying in the region after the war to clear up the mess, they left abruptly, leaving Pakistan alone to deal with the extremists, he added.(ANI)