Destroying terror havens key to Pakistan`s ties with neighbours: US

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns today asked Pakistani leadership to destroy terrorist havens in the restive Waziristan, which he said is not only in the interest of Pakistan but also for having positive relationship with its neighbours.

Islamabad: US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns today asked top Pakistani leadership to destroy terrorist safe havens in the restive North Waziristan, which he said is not only in the interest of Pakistan but also for having positive relationship with its neighbours.

"Countering cross-border militancy and shutting down safe havens is critical not only for Pakistan`s long-term peace and prosperity but also for positive relations between Pakistan and all its neighbours, including Afghanistan," Burns said in a statement.

Burns, who arrived in Pakistan last night on his first visit as Deputy Secretary of State, met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and special assistant to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi.

"Burns conveyed the message of the United States to top Pakistani civil and military officials during the meetings, asking for the destruction of terrorist sanctuaries located in North Waziristan," Dawn News quoted sources as saying.

On behalf of the US, he requested that this operation should be completed before the installation of the new political administration in Afghanistan, it said.

"We appreciate Pakistan`s efforts to further Afghan-led reconciliation and we remain hopeful that we will conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement later this year that will enable us to continue to train, advise, and assist Afghan forces and go after the remnants of core al-Qaeda.

"This is deeply in our interest and in the interest of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the rest of South and Central Asia," Burns said.

Observing that militancy continues to threaten Pakistan`s revival, Burns said few countries have paid a heavier price than Pakistan in the fight against extremism.

"We support the Prime Minister`s efforts to reestablish authority over all Pakistani territory in whatever way Pakistan deems appropriate, and especially urge him to sustain pressure on militant groups, deny them a safe-haven, and prevent cross-border attacks," he added.

Noting that this is a moment of opportunity for the US-Pakistan relationship, Burns said the US shares a deep stake in continuing to strengthen the foundations of this partnership.

"And we share a deep commitment to putting that partnership to work to realise our shared vision of a more peaceful and prosperous Pakistan, and a more peaceful and prosperous South Asia," he said.

The Prime Minister`s Office issued a statement saying: "Bilateral and regional issues were discussed in the meeting."

About the meeting with Gen Raheel, the Pakistani military statement said, "During the meeting, matters of mutual interest including regional security situation came under discussion."

Interior Minister Khan said Pakistan enjoys good ties with the US and stressed on greater coordination and cooperation in relations in the wake of regional situation developing as a result of the drawdown of ISAF forces from Afghanistan.

He outlined Pakistan`s concerns over the situation in the post-2014 scenario, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Khan said a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the best interest of the international community particularly of Pakistan.

He said Pakistan is looking forward to working with the new Afghan government but emphasised that any bilateral or regional arrangement must address Pakistan`s concerns and interests.

The US Deputy Secretary of State said that the US has a long-term commitment to Pakistan and also in ensuring security and stability of the region.

He assured Khan of the US`s continuous and long-term cooperation with Pakistan, the statement said.

Referring to his meetings in Islamabad, Burns said he stressed in all his discussions that US President Barack Obama remains firmly committed to their shared goal of a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan.

And as Secretary of State John Kerry emphasised during his visit here last August and again at the Strategic Dialogue in Washington in January of this year, he is personally committed to making that goal a reality.

"After some difficult years, our relationship is on a positive trajectory ? a trajectory we hope to not only maintain, but accelerate," he said.

"Nowhere is our partnership making more of an impact than in supporting Pakistan`s economic revival. Prime Minister Sharif and Finance Minister (Ishaq) Dar have undertaken courageous economic reforms, and concrete steps to expand regional economic linkages, including with India," Burns said.

"As Pakistan`s partner, we will do our part to be as supportive as we can," he added.
"We`ve already made a number of strategic investments that have contributed to Pakistan`s economic growth, from funding the construction and rehabilitation of nearly 900 kilometres of roads to nearly USD 900 million in energy sector assistance which will add 1400 megawatts to Pakistan`s power grid by the end of 2014," he said.
"And as Pakistan`s continues to act on its IMF commitments, we will look to do even more. In fact, next week, our two governments will meet in Washington to discuss our joint plan to increase trade and investment over the next five years," Burns said.

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