Washington: The White House has welcomed the release of American CIA contractor Raymond Davis, arrested by Pakistani authorities after he shot and killed two men in Lahore in January.
"The US welcomes the release of Mr Davis. He was pardoned, as you understand it, by the families involved of the victims and in accordance with Pakistani law," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
Davis was set free after family members of the Pakistanis killed by him told a Pakistani court that they were dropping charges in exchange for financial compensation, often referred to as "blood money" in Pakistan.
His release ended one of the most serious diplomatic stand-offs between Islamabad and Washington in nine years of partnering in the fight against terrorism.
"This was a very important and necessary step for both of our countries to be able to maintain our relationship and remain focused on progress on bedrock national interests, and I`m deeply grateful for the Pakistani government`s decision," said Senator John Kerry, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Kerry who visited Pakistan last month, said the US deeply regrets the loss of life that led to this difficulty in US-Pak relationship and the demonstrations on Pakistan`s streets.
"But neither country could afford for this tragedy to derail our vital relationship. We look forward to working with Pakistan to strengthen our relationship and confront our common challenges," Kerry said.
Welcoming the released of Davis, Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said as a US diplomat, he is protected by the Vienna Convention and should never have been arrested or detained.
"If Pakistan wants to be taken seriously as a state based on the rule of law, it must respect its international obligations. Pakistan and the US cooperate on many levels because it is in our mutual interest. Irresponsible behaviour like this jeopardises everything our two nations have built together," Rogers said.
"It is likely that the deal to release Davis in exchange for compensation to the victims` families was reached behind closed doors by Pakistan`s powerful intelligence agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the CIA," said Lisa Curtis, a noted American scholar on South Asian affairs.
However, she warned that this might help to cool tempers between the ISI and CIA in the immediate term, so long as Pakistan resists taking serious action against terrorist groups like the LeT, tensions in the relationship will persist.
Davis, a 36-year-old former Special Forces soldier, was arrested in Lahore on January 27 after he shot and killed two armed men he claimed were trying to rob him.
Yesterday, he was acquitted and freed by a Pakistani court after the families of the dead men agreed to a "blood money" deal of over USD 2.3 million and pardoned him. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her administration did not pay any compensation to the victims’ family in Pakistan to get the release of Davis.
"The US does not pay any compensation," Hillary said when asked about news reports from Pakistan quoting Davis lawyer that a compensation of USD 2.3 million was paid to the victims’ families. "The US did not pay any compensation," she reiterated.
"Davis was an embassy employee, and we will continue to seek visas for embassy employees who have important functions to perform in furtherance of the work we are doing with the Pakistani government and on behalf of the Pakistani people," Hillary told reporters travelling with her in Egypt.
Hillary said the families of the victims of the January 27 incident pardoned Davis, and the US is very grateful for their decision.
"We appreciate the actions that they took that enabled Mr Davis to leave Pakistan and head back home. We also have a Department of Justice investigation that has begun into what happened in Lahore," she said.
The US has communicated its strong support for the relationship between Pakistan and the United States, which the Administration considers to be of strategic importance, and are looking forward to continuing to strengthen it based on mutual respect and common interests.