January 4, 2019 3:56:17 pm
Pakistan and the US are discussing plans to hold a maiden meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump but it hinges on the “positive outcome” of the Pakistan-brokered talks to strike a peace deal in Afghanistan, a senior official here said.
In his first comments in 2019, President Trump on Wednesday said that he wants a “great relationship” with Pakistan and is looking forward to meeting the new leadership. “The proposal for a summit meeting is being discussed but the final decision hinges on the positive outcome of the ongoing efforts to strike a peace deal in Afghanistan,” a senior Pakistani official was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.
Khan, who took over as the Prime Minister in August, is likely to travel to the US if “all goes well”, the official said on the condition of anonymity.
Trump told his Cabinet colleagues on Wednesday that Pakistan has not been fair to the United States. “We want to have a great relationship with Pakistan, but they house the enemy. They take care of the enemy. We just can’t do that,” Trump said.
“So, I look forward to meeting with the new leadership in Pakistan. We will be doing that in the not too distant future. But I ended USD 1.3 billion that we paid. I think it was water, we were just paying to Pakistan. So, I ended that.”
When asked to comment on the Trump’s statement and whether there was any chance of the meeting between the two leaders, Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal said Pakistan looked forward to “positive engagement” with the US at the leadership level.
“President Trump’s remarks are indeed a departure from his tweet of January 1, 2018,” Faisal told a weekly news briefing. Trump blasted Pakistan in his first tweet of 2018, saying its leaders have given the US “nothing but lies & deceit.” “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he added,” he had tweeted.
The positive vibes coming from the White House are attributed to the recent push for seeking a peace deal in Afghanistan. Pakistan recently brokered direct talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US in the UAE.
The next round is expected in Saudi Arabia, which suggests a positive movement of the talks. “If the process moves forward in positive direction, certainly there is a possibility of engagement between Pakistan and the US at the highest level,” another official said. Some sources said that the proposal for the Khan-Trump meeting first came from Pakistan. Officials here believe that engagement at the highest level could help reduce the trust deficit between the two countries.
Ties between the US and Pakistan strained after Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August 2017, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to “agents of chaos” that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists.
In November, The US suspended USD 1.66 billion in security assistance to Pakistan and in September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban active on its soil.
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