US President Barack Obama and his Pakistani counterpart,Asif Zardari,agreed on the need for a strategy to try to resolve the region’s problems,the Pakistani foreign ministry said.
Obama spoke to Zardari by telephone on Wednesday,their first contact since the US leader took office last month,and exchanged views on bilateral relations and problems in the region confronted with a surge in violence by al Qaeda and Taliban.
The call came a day after the White House said Obama ordered an interagency review to examine US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan before a NATO summit in April.
“Both also agreed to start an active engagement for the resolution of problems facing our region through a holistic strategy,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.
“President Zardari … expressed the hope that there would be a beneficial change for the world,particularly for our region and Pakistan-US relations.”
The White House later released a statement saying Obama had “expressed his support for Pakistan’s democracy and his commitment to a strong partnership,” especially on counterterrorism and economic development.
“Both leaders agreed to work together to advance peace and prosperity in Pakistan and the region,” the White House said.
Obama said earlier this week at his first presidential news conference that there was no doubt terrorists were operating in safe havens in the tribal regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan and the United States wanted to make sure Islamabad was a strong ally in fighting that threat.
His newly named special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan,Richard Holbrooke,met Zardari on Tuesday during a visit to Pakistan.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Tuesday that Pakistan had urged the United States to reach out to reconcilable elements of the Taliban movement as part of its strategy for peace in the region.
Qureshi said missile attacks by US drone aircraft to eliminate al Qaeda members in Pakistani territory were counterproductive because of the anti-American sentiment stirred by civilian casualties resulting from the missile strikes.