Emphasising the importance of wide-ranging cooperative ties between the United States and Pakistan, the White House has said a formal meeting between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected in the near future.
Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said, “We would like to have a formal meeting with the Pakistan PM so it is a matter of making sure that we can find an appropriate time for both leaders to come together.”
The comments came as news reports quoted senior Pakistani officials saying that a schedule of the first formal meeting between the US and Pakistani leaders since the inception of the new government in Islamabad would be announced shortly.
Talking to reporters, Rhodes said that though a formal meeting between the two leaders had not been scheduled at the United Nations next week “but it is certainly possible that they will be able to see each other”, adding that Obama and Sharif had discussed many issues on the phone.
“I think our impression is that the Sharif government wants to find a basis to rebuild a stronger US-Pakistan relationship. They are going to be very clear about what their interests are when they have differences on some issues but we both still believe that our nations will benefit when we find ways to work together over the issues of terrorism, economic growth and development in Pakistan and regional stability.”
Rhodes also underlined the significance of Islamabad’s support for stability in neighboring Afghanistan as Washington prepares to wind up its war by the end of 2014.
“With respect to Afghanistan, even as we are strengthening the Afghan government and security forces and supporting an Afghan-led peace process between the government and the Taliban elements that wish to 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, security and stability, given the number of groups that have operated across the Pak-Afghan border.”
Rhodes further said, “We want to ensure that we are enlisting Pakistan as a partner. 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 positive Af-Pak relations augur well for the interests of both countries and the US.”