Washington: The White House has said that the US is currently focused on getting its diplomat Raymond Davis released from Pakistan, notwithstanding the setback it received at the hands of Pakistani courts.
Davis, who held US diplomatic passport, is currently under arrest in Pakistan on charges of murder of two Pakistani nationals.
"The United States on Pakistan is focused on ensuring that the diplomatic status of Mr Davis is honoured and we're focused on having him released," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily news conference.
Meanwhile, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said, "He (Davis) should be released immediately because of his diplomatic immunity."
"Our fundamental argument here remains the fact that, under the Vienna Conventions, he should have full diplomatic immunity and should be released immediately, and we call on the Pakistani Government to do so.”
“That said, we're also saying that he was obviously innocent of any criminal action and was simply defending himself in a botched robbery," Toner said.
The US, he said, is disappointed at the turn of events on Pakistan on this issue. There were two separate court actions yesterday in Lahore.
One was the Lahore High Court that requested that the government of Pakistan made a filing on the question of diplomatic immunity, and apparently they postponed that to March 14th.
The US is not a party to that particular case. There was no question of sending US lawyers to this case.
"That's strictly between the Lahore High Court and the Government of Pakistan," he said.
There was also a Lahore Sessions Court in which Raymond Davis was remanded yesterday to judicial custody for an additional 14 days on weapons possession charges.
"That's apparently a periodic court hearing as the case goes on. Mr Davis did participate in that Lahore Sessions Court hearing via video conference from where he's being held and detained. A representative of the US Consulate General in Lahore attended the session in the courtroom," he said.
The President has made the point that if a country is a signatory to the Vienna Convention, these things work because everybody complies with the letter of the law. So there's a reciprocity issue, he said.
"There's an issue here that the Vienna Conventions allow diplomats all over the world - our diplomats, Pakistani diplomats - to conduct their business free from the fear, threat of criminal prosecution. So that's how the law works," Toner said in response to a question.
"Has this case made that ongoing bilateral relationship more difficult? Probably yes. But we continue to work through this," said Toner.
The US has continues to call on his immediate release so that the two countries can get back to the business at hand, Toner said in response to a question.
At the same time, Toner said the US-Pakistan relationship continues.
"We've got a strategic dialogue with Pakistan. It's a vital relationship for the United States and for Pakistan," he said.
"We face many of the same threats, and we're seeking to overcome them and create a Pakistan that has the right kind of democratic institutions and economic stability for a brighter future. That's at the core of our relationship with Pakistan," Toner said.
Later, a senior State Department official conceded that the US-Pak relationship has reached a new low as a result of the Davis case which has made things difficult for the government of the two countries.
"It involved a lot of people on this to try to resolve it in an expeditious manner. Davis is a diplomat and we believe he should be released," the official said.
"It is obviously we need to address and address it relatively soon, before it does any more damage," the official said acknowledging that this has diverted the attention of both the US and Pakistan from the war against terrorism.
First Published: Friday, February 18, 2011, 13:34