Pak-US talks: No decision over NATO supply routes

Pakistan and the US on Monday held crucial talks on ending a six-month blockade of supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Islamabad: Pakistan and the US on Monday held crucial talks on ending a six-month blockade of supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan but failed to take a final decision on reopening the supply lines that were closed after a NATO attack.

Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan was quoted by state-run media as saying that a final decision regarding the reopening of NATO supply routes had not been made.

Khan said talks between Pakistan and the US on the issue will continue. The Pakistani delegation at the talks was led by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar while Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides headed the US team.

Gen John Allen, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, also participated in the talks.

The American team has held talks with Pakistan`s military and political leadership on various issues, including the NATO supply routes, spokesman Khan said.

It is the desire of both countries to normalise their relations at the earliest and "positive progress" has been made in this regard, he said.

Allen arrived in Islamabad Sunday night shortly after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on phone to new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, triggering speculation that the two countries were close to a deal on reopening the supply routes.

Allen, who is in Pakistan for the second time within a week, met Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani last night and discussed several issues, including the reopening of the supply lines.

Pakistan shut the supply routes in November last year after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Islamabad`s insistence on an apology for the attack and haggling over fees to be paid for containers and tankers passing through Pakistani territory have held up a deal on reopening the routes.

In a related development, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet - Pakistan`s highest decision-making body on security issues - is expected to meet this week.

Pakistan`s Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, who has been called back for consultations, will brief the committee.

Pakistan has also raised with the US pending payments from Coalition Support Fund (CSF) as reimbursement for its expenses on the war on terror.

Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh told US Deputy Secretary of State Nides that it would be difficult for Pakistan to control its fiscal deficit without the CSF payments.

The US reportedly assured Pakistan that it would release an instalment of USD 400 million from the CSF within a week while another 400 million dollars would be cleared later.

The US had pledged that it would pay Pakistan USD 800 million in 2011 from the CSF but the amount was held up after a string of crises took relations to a new low.


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