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Pakistan Confident US Tri-Lateral Talks on Afghanistan Will Resume Soon

Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit (File Photo)
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit (File Photo)

A day after the United States postponed a key meeting with Pakistani and Afghan officials to discuss the war in Afghanistan, Islamabad says it is confident the tri-lateral talks will be re-scheduled soon.

The annual ministerial level meeting was to be held in Washington February 23-24 to review progress on the Afghan war and the regional campaign against extremism.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit tells VOA his country is working with both the U.S. and Afghan governments to re-schedule the meeting as soon as possible. He says he does not expect a prolonged delay.

"These talks, which are important for stability and prosperity in this region, we hope that these talks would be held sooner rather than later," he said. "They have the strategic importance and we hope that this process will continue and result in something positive for this region as a whole."

U.S. officials have attributed the decision to postpone the talks to what they view as "political changes" in Pakistan. They say the decision was made after discussions with Pakistani and Afghan officials.

The State Department has said Washington looks forward to convening a very productive meeting at the earliest opportunity and is committed to robust engagement with Pakistan and Afghanistan because the three countries share many issues of mutual concern.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to represent the United States in the meeting with foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was to represent Islamabad in the meeting but was not re-appointed when the government reformed the federal cabinet last week.

Some observers in Pakistan believe rising tensions over the detention of American diplomat Raymond Davis may have motivated the United States to postpone the trilateral talks.

Pakistani police have accused the U.S embassy official of killing two Pakistanis in a shooting incident in Lahore late last month.

Davis claims he was protecting himself when they tried to rob him at gunpoint in the eastern Pakistani city. The United States wants Davis freed immediately, and cite diplomatic immunity from prosecution under international agreements.

But political observers say anti-U.S. sentiment is strong in some public sectors and Pakistani leaders may be concerned of a public backlash if they release the American diplomat without first putting him on trial. Pakistani officials have warned that U.S. pressure on Islamabad to release Davis could be "counterproductive”"

Critics like former Pakistan foreign secretary Najmuddin Sheikh say while the two countries cite local and international laws to support their positions on the matter, it will be difficult for the Pakistani government to ignore the public mood.

"This was something that should have been decided purely as a matter of law. [But] unfortunately now the issue has been clouded by the public reaction," said Sheikh. "So it has become very clouded, it has become very difficult and I really don’t know how one can foretell what is going to happen.

Washington and Islamabad are allies in the war against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan, which relies heavily on U.S military and civilian aid, is considered a key U.S ally in the fight against terrorists in neighboring Afghanistan.

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