Pompeo to visit Islamabad for talks with PM in Sep

LATEST PAKISTAN

WASHINGTON: United States (US) Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is likely to visit Islamabad in the first week of September for consultations with Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team on issues of mutual interests.

Pompeo, who is expected to land in Islamabad on September 5, will likely be the first foreign dignitary to meet the newly-elected prime minister after he took the oath of his office on Saturday.

It was reported that during his meeting with the Pakistani officials, Secretary Pompeo may “focus on two major issues: efforts to revive once close ties between the two states and Pakistan’s support for a US-led move to jump-starting the Afghan peace process.”

It was further reported that Alice Wells, who heads the Bureau for South Asian Affairs at the State Department, may also accompany Pompeo.

Earlier this week, US officials had urged Pakistan to help end the Afghan war, adding that recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan have not discouraged them from negotiating peace with some Taliban factions.

“What we’re seeing here is, there are some factions, some elements of the Taliban that clearly are not on board with peace. Others do want to have peace negotiations and peace discussions,” said State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert while commenting on this week’s terrorist attacks in Kabul that killed almost 50 people.

On Tuesday, a senior US official had reminded Pakistan that now was the time to peacefully end the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan and encouraged Islamabad to play a leading role in this process.

Apparently, Washington believes that Pakistan still has enough “influence over the Afghan Taliban to persuade them to join the peace process, and wants Islamabad to help establish a political setup in Kabul that would allow a peaceful withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan”.

On Monday, Secretary Pompeo telephoned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and sought his support for arranging another ceasefire in Afghanistan.

The first ceasefire on Eidul Fitr led to the first face-to-face talks between US and Taliban officials in Doha last month. Both sides are now trying to hold the second round, also in Doha next month.

In recent statements, US officials have also expressed the desire to restore their once-close ties with Pakistan.

On Saturday, the US State Department had said that it recognises and welcomes the new Pakistani prime minister, dispelling the impression that Washington was not happy with Imran Khan’s election.

In an earlier statement, a senior US official had hoped that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government would work with the US for translating tough issues into mutual achievements.

“We recognise and welcome the newly elected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on taking the oath of office,” Nauert said.

Usually, the State Department prefers to comment on such issues on a working day but Nauert released this statement on Saturday, hours after Khan took the oath of his office.

“For over 70 years, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan has been a vital one,” she had said. “The United States looks forward to working with Pakistan’s new civilian government to promote peace and prosperity in Pakistan and the region.”