ISLAMBAD: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday said the first summit-level talks between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump next week will give them new opportunities to reset the bilateral ties and usher in an era of peace in the region.
Trump will host Imran on July 22 at the White House, after a flurry of exchanges between Islamabad and Washington seems to have eased the friction in bilateral ties, especially on securing a peace deal in war-ravaged Afghanistan and paved the way for the meeting.
Addressing a seminar organised by the Islamabad Policy Institute here on Pakistan-US relations, Qureshi said that the US policy of coercion towards Pakistan was gradually changing into one of cooperation. Trump criticised Pakistan last year, saying it has given America "nothing but lies & deceit".
The Trump administration also suspended military aid to Pakistan for not doing enough to rein-in terror groups operating from its soil. "Both countries are gradually moving towards a mutually beneficial, constructive and cooperative approach in bilateral relations," Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan's first visit to the US offers the leadership of both countries new opportunities towards resetting the bilateral relationship and it will also enable Pakistan to build its narrative. He said a constructive and cooperative approach is the best option to improve Pakistan's relations with the US.
Qureshi, who will accompany Khan to Washington, acknowledged that there have been ups and downs in the past, but on the broader spectrum, the relationship has been mutually beneficial for both countries during the period of "active cooperation". "The extraordinary achievements during the 1980s and post 9/11 success against the common enemy, terrorism, was possible through close and dynamic cooperation between the two countries," he was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.
The minister expressed confidence that as the two countries embark upon the first summit-level engagement, it will strengthen their ties and bring an era of peace and stability in the broader region. Qureshi said the invitation from President Trump to Prime Minister Khan can be seen as an "acknowledgement of the inherent importance" of the bilateral ties.
On the issue of Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan is "mindful" of America's priorities in the war-torn country. "Pakistan has been facilitating the US-Taliban talks in good faith, underscoring that it remains a shared responsibility," he said.
"Pakistan's engagement to promote intra-Afghan dialogue and regional consensus in support of the Afghan peace process are acknowledged by relevant stakeholders," he said, days after China hosted a meeting on Afghanistan in Beijing that involved Pakistan.
Representatives of China, Russia, and the US held their 3rd consultation on the Afghan peace process in Beijing on July 10-11 following which they also invited Pakistan to join for a quadrilateral meeting. The four countries jointly urged the Taliban to immediately agree to a ceasefire and begin direct negotiations with the Afghanistan government to end the 18-year violence in the country.
In a joint statement, they re-affirmed that the negotiations should be "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" and produce a peace framework as soon as possible.
Qureshi also said that the convergence in the Pakistan-US policies on Afghanistan has rekindled hope for the resolution of the protracted Afghan conflict which only has brought misery and despondency on the region.
In December last year, President Trump announced that the US would pull out troops from Afghanistan. The US still has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, nearly 18 years after the US-led invasion to topple the Taliban.
Trump and Imran even had a war of words on Twitter earlier over Pakistan's role in fighting terrorism. But a flurry of exchanges between the two countries appear to have eased friction and paved the way for the much-anticipated Khan-Trump summit meeting, the Express Tribune commented.