Pakistan-US tension not beyond control: FO

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan on Thursday said the tension with the United States was not beyond control and efforts were being made to build the confidence level.

Addressing a weekly media briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said, “finding common ground in inter-state relations is a continuous and complex process.”

He added: “Pakistan and the US are constantly engaged in finding common ground, and the process is ongoing. This is what was also conveyed by [the] US Secretary of Defence [James Mattis] during his recent visit to Pakistan.”

On the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Faisal said Pakistan had conveyed reaction to the US officials in Islamabad, including the resolutions of the National Assembly and the Senate on the issue of Jerusalem.

“We have been assured that our sentiments and concerns would be conveyed to Washington,” he said.

Faisal said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi participated in the Extraordinary Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Summit on Al-Quds Al-Sharif held on December 13th at Istanbul, which was preceded by the Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting, attended by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif.

“[The] OIC member states recognise Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital under occupation and urge the US to withdraw from the peace process. The leaders rejected and condemned in the strongest terms the unilateral decision by the President of the United States [Donald Trump] to recognise al-Quds [Jerusalem] as the so-called capital of Israel,” he said.

The OIC member states, he said: “Declared East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine and invited all countries to recognise the state of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.”

The statement, Faisal said, also declared that the OIC “holds the US administration fully liable for all the consequences of not retracting from this illegal decision and regard it as an announcement of the US administration’s withdrawal from its role as a sponsor of peace and its realisation among all stakeholders and an encouragement of Israel, the occupying power, to continue its policy of colonialism, settlement, apartheid and ethnic cleansing it has been practicing in the occupied Palestinian territory since 1967, and in the city of al-Quds with the Noble Sanctuary at its core.” Asked to comment on a defence bill signed by Trump that includes 700 million dollars reimbursement to Pakistan that includes the Coalition Support Fund, the spokesperson said in the context of Coalition Support Fund, “we have already given our view point in the briefings in the last two weeks. We welcome the signing of the defence bill. It may be reiterated that Coalition Support Fund is a reimbursement and not assistance.”

About reducing dependence on the US, Faisal said cooperation between Pakistan and the US was beneficial for both the countries, adding: “That does not prevent us from exploring all other options on the table, which are in the best interest of our national security. As recent as two weeks ago, the US Defence Secretary James Mattis was also quoted to have said that both Pakistan and the US are working towards finding common ground for identifying the way forward in our bilateral relations.”

He said India had replied to Pakistan’s letter on convicted spy Kulbhushan Jhadav that they would be sending Jhadav’s wife and mother on December 25th.

“The details and modalities of the meeting will now be worked out. Pakistan has submitted the Counter-Memorial to International Court of Justice. The extensive and detailed legal arguments prepared by the Counsel for Pakistan, Barrister Khawar Qureshi Queen’s Counsel, were filed at the ICJ in accordance with the court timetable,” Faisal said.

The spokesperson said the Counter Memorial was a comprehensive and robust document that covered all legal aspects of the case.  “We are fully confident that the ICJ will have regard to legal principles, as well as its existing case law, to reject the claims made by India for acquittal or release,” he maintained.

To a question on India’s surface-to-air missile, the spokesperson said: “Indian arms buildup has pushed the region in a vicious arms race. Its hegemonic designs are a cause of serious concern not only to Pakistan but also to the entire region. Indian thirst for becoming a regional hegemon is casting a dark shadow on South Asia. Pakistan forces are ready to defend our borders against any threat.”

On Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation that Pakistan was influencing state polls in India, he said Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community, observed a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

“However, India not only interferes in our internal affairs by promoting terrorism in our country, but also levels such unfounded allegations, in an attempt to divert the attention of the world from their internal issues, such as growing intolerance and religious extremism. I reiterate that India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debates,” the spokesperson contended.

On Afghanistan, he said Pakistan had repeatedly expressed its grave concerns about the presence and growing terrorist activities of Daesh in Afghanistan.

“We are especially alarmed at Daesh’s presence in Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan. Daesh is also present in Afghan provinces bordering China, Iran and the Central Asian Republics,” the spokesperson pointed out.

He said more than 43 percent of Afghan territory was either out of Kabul’s control or was contested.

“Such ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan have been instrumental in attracting terrorist groups from all over the world. Presence of such terrorist groups not only poses threat to the security and stability of Afghanistan but also undermines the security of its neighbours and the region as a whole,” the spokesperson said.

To a question on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Faisal said China had not halted funding for any project.

“[The] CPEC is a mega project entailing several rail, road, infrastructure and energy projects. We have not received any information from the Chinese side regarding halting funding for any project,” he remarked.

Earlier in his opening statement, the spokesperson condemned the atrocities in Held Kashmir by the Indian forces and the violations along the Line of Control.

He said Indian Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh was summoned to the Foreign Office over unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces.

The spokesperson also congratulated Samar Khan, a Pakistani cyclist who had become the first women to scale Africa’s highest Mountain Kilimanjaro on a bicycle.

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