A top decision-making body on defence and security issues will convene on Tuesday (today) amidst muted claims of a breakthrough in talks over the reopening of Nato supply routes that Pakistan had blocked last year.
The meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) will come on the heels of overnight talks between top Pakistani and US officials to narrow down their differences.
A foreign office official confirmed that Isaf Commander General John Allen along with US Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides held extensive talks on Monday with their Pakistani interlocutors including Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
In an attempt to keep media at bay, the high-level talks took place at the residence of Foreign Minister Khar in the ministers’ enclave, the official revealed.
“It seems the discussions went well,” said one official without elaborating if the two sides were able to close a deal on the resumption of vital land routes for foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.
“Nothing is final yet,” the official added with guarded optimism.
In the past, the two sides had come close to a deal more than once but collapsed before a final agreement was made. Sources said the final announcement hinges on the US agreeing to Pakistan’s longstanding demand for an apology over last year’s Nato cross-border raid which killed 24 soldiers.
For this purpose, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman held extensive talks with US authorities in Washington during the last few days. She was called back from Washington and is expected to brief the civil and military leadership about her talks ahead of the DCC meeting. The US has so far resisted demands of a public apology — a precondition set by the government to reopen Nato supply routes. Washington’s reluctance is attributed to the Obama Administration’s domestic compulsion in an election year.
A senior government official told The Express Tribune that an apology could end the protracted impasse over the issue. The final agreement, according to the official, will be a “package deal” encompassing all contentious issues including drone attacks, cross-border raids and the Afghan endgame.
The US State Department played down the hype surrounding the late Monday night talks in the capital between Pakistani and American officials, asserting that no agreement had yet been reached on the issue.
While officials from Pakistan and the US remain tight-lipped regarding a possible breakthrough, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday sounded upbeat. Rasmussen said it was necessary for both Nato and Pakistan to cooperate.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Rasmussen said he hopes that Pakistan would soon reopen the supply routes.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2012.