Pakistani-US 'Progress' on Ending NATO Blockade: Officials

Pakistani-US 'Progress' on Ending NATO Blockade: Officials

Pakistan and the United States have made “progress” in talks on ending Islamabad’s seven-month blockade of NATO supplies travelling overland into Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday.

The news emerged as Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf called a meeting of top cabinet ministers and military leaders to discuss the issue at 6:00 pm (1300 GMT).

A deal would help repair Pakistani-US relations, which are at their worst since the 9/11 attacks and still reeling from the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011.

He refused to comment on press reports that a draft understanding had been reached between Pakistan and the United States.

A US official declined to comment, but confirmed talks were “progressing” on reopening the ground lines of communication (GLOCs) shut on November 26 after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border.

On Monday, US Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides and the US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, held talks with Pakistani officials in Islamabad.

It was Allen’s second visit in six days.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also telephoned Prime Minister Ashraf over the weekend, fanning speculation that a deal could be imminent.

There was a similar flurry of speculation in May when the defence committee of Pakistan’s cabinet first discussed resuming NATO supplies, but the process ended in stalemate.

Islamabad has demanded a formal apology for the deaths of its border troops. A US and NATO investigation said the killings were the result of mistakes made on both sides.

In Washington, the US State Department confirmed Monday only that talks were ongoing.