WASHINGTON, Sept 21 (APP): While emphasizing the importance of wide-ranging cooperative ties between the United States and Pakistan, the White House has said a formal meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected in near future. “We do expect that we’d like to have a formal meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan in the near future, so it’s a matter of making sure that we can find an appropriate time for both leaders to come together,” Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, said.
Rhodes’ comments came as news reports quoted senior Pakistani officials including as saying that a schedule of the first formal meeting between the U.S. and Pakistani leaders since the inception of the new government in Islamabad would be announced shortly.
In a conference call with reporters, Rhodes remarked while there’s not a formal bilateral meeting between the two leaders scheduled at the United Nations next week, “but it’s certainly possible that they’ll be able to see each other.”
The White House official noted that President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif have had a good set of discussions on the phone. He said the Sharif government provides an opportunity for bilateral relations to move on a positive trajectory.
“I think our impression is that the Sharif government wants to find a basis to rebuild a stronger U.S. Pakistan relationship that—they’re going to be very clear about what their interests are and when they have differences on some issues, but that we both still believe that our nations benefit when we can find ways to work together on issues related to counterterrorism, on issues related to economic growth and development inside of Pakistan, but also on regional stability.”
Rhodes also underlined the key significance of Islamabad’s support towards stability in neighboring Afghanistan and the region, at a time when Washington is looking to wind up its war by the end of 2014.
“With respect to Afghanistan, as we look towards the end of our war in Afghanistan in 2014, we’ve made clear that one of the pillars of our strategy is regional stability.
So even as we are strengthening the Afghan government and security forces and even as we are supporting an Afghan-led peace process between the government and those elements of the Taliban that will pursue their goals peacefully, we also want to make sure that Pakistan is part of the picture and part of the solution in terms of regional peace and security and stability, particularly given how many groups have operated across that border.”
“So we want to ensure that we’re enlisting Pakistan as a partner. But we also want to help ensure that Pakistan and Afghanistan are finding ways to bridge their mistrust and to build deeper cooperation, because we believe that strong and positive relationships between Pakistan and Afghanistan serve the interests of both countries and the United States as well.”
The official said the tone of the discussions would be as to how the two countries can cooperate ‘and how can we find ways, even as we have differences on some issues between the U.S. and Pakistan, to make sure that the trajectory of the relationship is a positive one.’
“And the Sharif government I think provides that opportunity, and I think that will be represented in meetings that Secretary (John) Kerry has up there in New York and also the future discussions and meetings that the President will be able to have with his Pakistani counterpart”, he said.