Kerry, Sharif talk Afghan peace, rebel bases
ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON (PAN): US Secretary of State Senator John Kerry on Thursday held talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his national security advisor on bilateral relations and regional issues, including Afghanistan.
A US delegation led by Kerry, who arrived on a three-day visit in Islamabad on Wednesday night, met separately with Sharif and with a team headed by Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz at the Foreign Office here.
He is scheduled to meet the Pakistan president and army chief on how to address the ticklish question of CIA-operated drone strikes in the tribal region near the Durand Line, the war in Afghanistan and the fight against extremism.
A Foreign Office source said the delegation-level discussions focused on the fight against militancy, US-Pakistan strategic relations and drone attacks. Matters pertaining to the resumption of strategic ties between the two countries and stabilising Afghanistan also figured prominently.
Before going into the meetings, Kerry commended the elections, marking the first time that an elected civilian government completed a full term in office. "This is a historic transition that just took place. Nobody should diminish it," he told US embassy staff.
Peace talks with the Taliban and the continued presence of terrorist safe havens were on top of the secretary's agenda for meetings with Sharif and army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, a senior Obama administration official said.
Pakistan had an important role to play in Afghanistan, acknowledged the official, who praised the efforts of the new civilian government and the army in seeking to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.
He urged all parties to come to the table, and recognising that a secure Afghanistan was in the long-term interest of a stable Pakistan. "So that's certainly one of the key parts of our ongoing conversation," said the official travelling with Kerry.
"But we don't expect anything specifically on a Doha office coming out of this trip, and there's been no further movement since last time we briefed on where that process stands,” the official said.
Also on the table is the issues of cross-border militancy and safe havens for extremist groups on Pakistan's soil, according to the source, who said the sanctuaries threatened the interests of the US and its allies in the region.
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