WASHINGTON: The US has called back its negotiators seeking to resolve a standoff with Pakistan to restore the NATO supplies, as the White House Monday acknowledged some issues still remain to be resolved towards restoration of the country’s land routes for NATO supplies.
Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed reports that a U.S. team that remained in Pakistan to negotiate with their Pakistani counterparts for about six weeks, is returning home.
“Most of the technical arrangements have been worked out but there are several issues outstanding. We believe that all can be resolved and we remain ready to conclude this agreement as soon as Pakistan is ready,” President Barack Obama’s spokesman told the daily Press briefing.
The supply routes were closed in the aftermath of November 26, 2011 USA warplane attacks on Salala border posts, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, angering both the state and the Pakistani society.
The White House endorsed the move to withdraw the team but added it is clear that American officials would be back in Pakistan when Islamabad is ready to conclude the agreement on re-opening ground lines of communications (GLOCs).
Meanwhile, in response to a media query regarding the U.S. negotiating team’s return from Pakistan, Islamabad’s ambassador in Washington Sherry Rehman said : “I don’t really see it as an institutional pullout, but really, that question is for the US administration to speak to.”
“For our part, I have been saying this again and again, Pakistan is seeking to be part of the solution for NATO and the US as they transfer security in Afghanistan, not an obstacle,” she said in a statement e-mailed by the Pakistani Embassy.
“On the NATO supplies, the way forward is more related to other issues; we certainly did not close the GLOCs for leveraging a price advantage. They were not closed in a fit of pique or on impulse. These were closed as a decision of the DCC after 24 Pakistani soldiers were martyred at the Salala checkpost in November last, absent an expression of remorse,” the Pakistani ambassador added.
Earlier, the Pentagon and State Department had confirmed that the team was returning to Washington for debriefing.
“We saw it is the right move to withdraw,” Carney said in response to a question adding several technical consultations have been completed largely and so it was determined they can return home.
“We are ready to send officials back to Islamabad when the Pakistani government is ready to conclude the agreement.”
“It certainly remains our goal to complete an agreement as soon as possible and I would note that the Pakistani government has said the same thing.”
The spokesman indicated that the remaining issues that need to be resolved between Pakistan and the United States do not require the kind of technical people who have largely completed discussions on technical aspects of the ground lines of communications.
When asked a question in the context of Secretary Defense Leon Panetta’s remarks last week that the US was reaching limits of its patience, Carney responded: “Our relationship with Pakistan remains both extremely important and extremely complicated.”
“Because it is so important, we devote a lot of time and effort to working on that relationship --- and discussing all the key issues that are involved in that relationship and this is one of them.” AGENCIES/ SAMAA