'Will try to steer Pak-US ties towards betterment during Pompeo's visit,' says FM Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday reiterated that a US handout on a phone call between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo las week which mentioned terrorists operating in Pakistan was “contrary to the reality”.

"The telephone conversation... much to the surprise of many, was very cordial, very engaging and very constructive in nature," Qureshi asserted while speaking in the Senate.

Pompeo had phoned Prime Minister Khan to greet him on the assumption of office. The controversy started with the readout of the conversation issued by the State Department, which stated: “Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process.”

But Qureshi repeated his stance today that the claim above did not surface during the conversation at all. He said he was aware that the US had stood by its original press release, but that he maintains that the same was not true as "mistakes happen".

Stating that it is time to "move on", the foreign minister said Pakistan will try to steer its bilateral relations with the US towards betterment during the US secretary of state's visit to Islamabad on September 5.

He said his ministry will give importance to the opinions of the "Pakistani nation and their elected representatives" in the quest to improve ties with Washington.

Qureshi further said he will seek guidance from the parliament in formulating the country's foreign policy.

"On issues of foreign policy, I think we have to be above partisan interest," he said.

The Foreign Office had earlier rejected the US assertion, saying it was “factually incorrect” and that nothing of that sort had been mentioned during the conversation. The State Department had, however, disregarded the Pakistani contention and stood by its initial readout of the phone call.

Qureshi, who had ordered his ministry to issue a rebuttal over the State Department claim, had emphasised that Pakistan’s relationship with the US is important and the PTI government would like to have a constructive engagement with Washington by building on the convergences in the relationship.

Pompeo's visit

US secretary of state Pompeo is expected to visit Islamabad in the first week of September for consultations with PM Khan and his team on issues of mutual interests.

He will likely be the first foreign dignitary to meet the newly elected prime minister.

During his talks with Pakistani officials, Secretary Pompeo is expected to focus on two major issues: efforts to revive once close ties between the two states and Pakistan’s support for a US-led move to jump-starting the Afghan peace process.



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