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Diplomacy in Action

Senior State Department Official on Bilateral Meeting with Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Khar of Pakistan

Special Briefing
Senior Department Official
London, United Kingdom
February 23, 2012


MODERATOR: All right. The Secretary has just completed a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Khar of Pakistan. We have [Senior State Department Official] to read you out on that meeting, hereafter known as Senior State Department Official. Go ahead, [Senior State Department Official].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. All right. Hello, everybody. I’m sorry we’re not doing this in person, but here we are. First of all, let me say that the Secretary – they met for about an hour and 15 minutes. We thought all along that this continuation of the contact between the Secretary and the foreign minister, really important thing to keep the conversation between Pakistan and the United States going. They took the opportunity of both being here for this meeting, and so we took the opportunity to have them get together today.

The Secretary started the meeting by giving her vision about the shared interest that Pakistan and the United States have for the future, the importance of strong civilian (inaudible) and channels. And then she invited the foreign minister to bring us all up to date on where things stand with the parliamentary process in Pakistan. I know all of you follow this story really closely, but you know that for the past several weeks the parliament in Pakistan has been reviewing, debating, considering kind of how U.S.-Pakistan relations have gone forward. And the foreign minister reported on where that stands and what the near-term future of that parliamentary process is.

The Secretary responded by saying, as we all have from the very beginning of the debate in parliament, that we respect the parliament’s right to consider U.S.-Pakistan relations. We certainly respect the parliament’s right to take the time to do this in a sensible way, but that given the – and that given the report that the foreign minister has given about when this debate kind of would come to fruition over the next few weeks, that we had to get ready to get back into business with Pakistan. And that was particularly important in areas such as counterterrorism, working together on some of the regional questions, very much to include Afghanistan.

And so the Secretary talked a little bit, once this parliamentary review is finished and the government was ready, of looking forward about what that relationship with Pakistan in the short term might consist of, at least in the terms of visits. So, for example, she talked about the possibility that the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan might go to Pakistan, talk a little bit about where we stood on reconciliation on Afghanistan. We’d like to talk to them about the importance of what kind of assistance that we continue to give. So Deputy Secretary Nides, she said, for example, might be – could travel to Pakistan; Administrator Shah. We also talked about the possibility – and here the Pakistani side actually raised this – of bringing the Core Group back together. You’ll recall that group of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States – to talk about reconciliation issues.

So she sort of laid out a vision for how, after parliament, we would get back into a structured conversation with Pakistan so that we could pursue those interests that we can identify that we share, and then figure out a way to act on them jointly. So we spent the rest of the time going through those pieces. But let me stop there, and I’ll be glad to take a few questions.

Okay, thanks.

QUESTION: It’s Elise, it’s Elise. Thanks for doing this. Can you talk about – the Secretary spoke about the need to kind of get back to business and move forward. From the Pakistani side, did the minister express a similar willingness, or was she kind of indicating, as she has in remarks in Washington, that it was going to be a much more different relationship and possibly a little tougher?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That’s a really good question. Yes, she said that they would, after parliament made its recommendations, sort of welcome a return to this conversation with the United States. But yes, I mean, she obviously can speak for herself, but they will, I think, very much respect what it is that the parliament has to say. And obviously, I don’t have those recommendations and I can’t go through them one, two, three, four to a hundred.

But, they’ll respect what parliament tells them to do. I mean, it’s – we want to focus in on the importance of the civilian channel of the democracy. So we’ll see what parliament has to say and go from there.

But, in terms of the vision the Secretary laid out of kind of getting back into business on questions like counterterrorism, the region, Afghanistan, I think the foreign minister was very welcoming of that. But, that’s a great question.

MODERATOR: We’ll take two more.

QUESTION: I have one. It’s Karen DeYoung. The foreign minister gave a speech yesterday at Chatham House in which she was fairly dismissive of what she said were false reports about what Pakistan was up to vis-a-vis Afghanistan in terms of safe havens and other things, and appeared to say that these were all false reports that Pakistan would support any reconciliation process, but only processes that the Afghans were directly involved in. I wonder if those are subjects that came up at all during the meeting or if you wanted to comment on her remarks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, Karen. Thank you very much. No, I won’t comment on her remarks. They’re hers. I saw the reports of them. She took the opportunity today to brief the Secretary on her visit to Kabul from the 1st and then President Karzai’s visit to Islamabad. I think she repeated the themes with us that she – that I saw in the press yesterday, which is to say that they support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, Afghan peace process. And so do we.

And one of the things that we all agreed on was that the statement that President Karzai issued yesterday – if yesterday was Tuesday, I don’t know, Tuesday or Wednesday – after his meeting in Pakistan was a positive one. So that they are in favor of a process the Afghans run, the Afghans own, the Afghans are comfortable, is right in – right where we are as well.

MODERATOR: Let’s take one more, then we have to let [Senior State Department Official] go.

QUESTION: Can I just ask, did she give – the latest from out of Islamabad seems to be that this vote, this parliamentary vote on these recommendations, isn’t going to happen until the middle of next month. Is that your understanding?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: What she said was that they needed first to deal with the election to the senate, and then the senators would be sworn in on some specific date, and then very soon after that they would deal with the recommendations that they have been working on.

QUESTION: Okay. But is that soon enough for you guys? I mean, I understand you say you want to respect their process and everything like that, but I mean, really, this has been on hold for much longer than you want it to be and it seems like --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, again, don’t forget we’ve – it’s not that we’ve been out of contact with them completely. Of course, their ambassador to Washington, Cameron Munter, other connections. But their process is their process, so I wouldn’t make a judgment about what they’re going to do. We said we’ve respected the civilian authority here, we have respected parliament, and when they’re done, they’ll be done.

QUESTION: No, I understand that, but I’m – what I’m trying to get at – you want this – you would like this to – you would like the formal – these formal meetings and the visits, your visit, Raj Shah’s visit, Nides’s visit or whatever --

MODERATOR: Matt? Matt?

QUESTION: -- sooner rather than later. Right?

MODERATOR: Matt, I just lost him, I think. No, there he is.


QUESTION: Yeah. You would like these things to happen sooner rather than later. Am I not – am I wrong?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’d like them to take place after the parliament does its thing.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. But you would like them to happen sooner rather than not later.

MODERATOR: Thank you, [Senior State Department Official].

PRN: 2012/T60-04

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