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Relations With US 'Reset,' Pakistan's Foreign Minister Says

By Margaret Besheer September 26, 2019

Pakistan's foreign minister said Thursday that relations between Islamabad and Washington were improving and he was hopeful progress could be made on critical regional issues.

"I think the last year since this government came into office, there has been somewhat of a reset and things have improved," Shah Mahmood Qureshi said of the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was sworn in in August. "There has been more interaction at the highest level; we've had two very good meetings with President Trump."

Khan met with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. They had met previously at the White House in July.

"I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Khan," Trump told reporters before their Monday meeting. He added that he trusted him and that he felt "in a positive way" about Pakistan.

Previous criticism

He didn't always express such a rosy opinion. He slammed the previous government on Twitter in January 2018, saying it had given the U.S. "nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools." He cut hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid to the country last year, saying Islamabad was not doing enough to fight militants in border areas near Afghanistan.

"We've been working closely with them, pushing forward the peace process in Afghanistan," Qureshi told VOA, referring to the Trump administration.

Another area where there is potential for cooperation is trade, "and trade, I think, maybe is one of the most important," Trump said Monday. "We're going to increase trade with Pakistan by a tremendous margin."

As for the lost financial assistance, Qureshi was cautiously optimistic.

"We haven't really spoken about it, but I'm sure as a better understanding takes place, this will be resolved," he said.

Khan is also spreading his diplomatic wings, offering himself as an interlocutor for the United States in de-escalating tensions with Iran and its dealings with the Taliban.

Khan met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this week. "The message was that we need to find a way forward," Qureshi said of what his boss communicated to Rouhani.

As for the talks between the U.S. and the Taliban that collapsed earlier this month, the Pakistani minister said it was disappointing.

"According to all sides, the deal had been struck. The agreement was there. It was initialed. Both sides had even agreed to a date when a deal was to be signed. Then the next phase of the intra-Afghan dialogue was to start in Oslo," he recounted. "We still feel there is no other way but to resume the dialogue, because there is no military solution to the Afghan problem. The only way forward is a negotiated political solution."

Jammu and Kashmir

Friday, Khan will address the General Assembly and he is likely to focus on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

India's Aug. 5 decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has led to a security crackdown and communications blackout in the territory and a dangerous escalation between nuclear neighbors Pakistan and India.

"He expects the international community to respond in time before there is a catastrophe," Qureshi said of his prime minister.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also address the assembly on Friday.

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