Monday, June 24, 2024
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Khar conveys Pak’s outrage to Clinton

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Islamabad: Pakistan on Sunday conveyed to the US the “deep sense of rage” felt by its people over the killing of at least 24 soldiers in a cross-border air strike by NATO aircraft from Afghanistan, saying the incident had forced it to revisit the terms of its engagement with Washington.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar conveyed Pakistan’s stand on the latest issue to bedevil Pakistan-US relations during an early morning phone conversation with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said a statement from the Foreign Office.

“The Foreign Minister conveyed to the Secretary of State the deep sense of rage felt across Pakistan at the senseless loss of 24 soldiers due to the NATO/ISAF attack on the Pakistani post in Mohmand Agency,” the statement said.

The incident “negates the progress made by the two countries on improving relations and forces Pakistan to revisit the terms of engagement,” Khar said.

NATO helicopters and combat aircraft attacked two Pakistani military border posts in the restive Mohmand tribal region at 2 am on Saturday.

The Pakistan army put the death toll at 24 though officials were quoted by the media as saying that 28 soldiers, including two officers, were killed in the air strike. Pakistan-US relations, already strained by the May 2 American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, plunged to a new low after the incident. An emergency meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani last night decided to cut off all NATO supply routes in Afghanistan and asked the US to vacate Shamsi airbase, which is reportedly used by CIA-operated drones.

The Foreign Office statement said Khar spoke to Clinton to inform the US administration of the decisions made by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. Khar told Clinton that attacks like the one in Mohmand tribal agency were “totally unacceptable”.

“They demonstrate complete disregard for international law and human life, and are in stark violation of Pakistani sovereignty,” Khar was quoted as saying.

“She informed Secretary Clinton about the DCC decisions to stop NATO supply routes and that the US should vacate the Shamsi airbase within 15 days,” the statement said.

Clinton condoled with Khar the loss of life in on Saturday’s incident.

“She said that she was deeply saddened by the event. She conveyed the US government’s desire to work with Pakistan to resolve this issue,” the statement said.

In a related development, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, a close ally of Pakistan, called Khar last night to express solidarity with the people and government of Pakistan in the wake of the NATO-ISAF attack.

Khar thanked Davutoglu and “condemned in the strongest terms the unprovoked and totally unacceptable attacks by NATO/ISAF which demonstrated complete disregard for international law and human life,” said another statement from the Foreign Office.

Davutoglu assured Khar that Turkey, as a member of NATO, would ask for an impartial inquiry into the attack. PTI

Meanwhile, seeking to salvage its ties with Pakistan which plunged into crisis after a NATO strike killed 28 Pakistani soldiers, the Obama administration has said it fully backs a probe into the incident that led Islamabad to close NATO supply routes and ask US to vacate a key airbase.

A joint statement issued by the US Departments of State and Defence said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta “have been closely monitoring reports of the cross-border incident in Pakistan.” “Both offer their deepest condolences for the loss of life and support fully NATO’s intention to investigate (Saturday’s incident) immediately,” the statement said.

Following the cross-border strike on two Pakistani border posts by NATO helicopters and combat jets, Islamabad shut down the crucial NATO supply lines and asked the US to vacate its secret Shamsi air based inside Pakistan, which is reportedly used by the CIA for drone strikes, within 15 days.

Clinton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey and Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen John Allen also called their Pakistani counterparts following the incident.

“Secretary Clinton, Gen Dempsey and Gen Allen each called their Pakistani counterparts as well. (US) Ambassador (to Islamabad Cameron) Munter also met with Pakistani government officials in Islamabad.

“In their contacts, these US diplomatic and military leaders each stressed — in addition to their sympathies and a commitment to review the circumstances of the incident — the importance of the US-Pakistani partnership, which serves the mutual interests of our people,” the joint statement said.

All these leaders “pledged to remain in close contact with their Pakistani counterparts going forward as we work through this challenging time,” it said. (PTI)

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