At the 11th hour: Kerry’s visit postponed over security concerns

Jul 29, 2013| Courtesy by : http://tribune.com.pk/

Another official disclosed that US authorities cautioned their Pakistani counterparts that the Keery’s visit may be postponed again if the dates are made public. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

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ISLAMABAD: The much-awaited visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry has been postponed once again after his original travel plan was leaked to the media, official sources told The Express Tribune.

Secretary Kerry was set to arrive in Islamabad on Sunday. However, US authorities rescheduled his two-day visit at the last moment, citing security reasons.

Diplomatic sources and Foreign Office officials confirmed that US secretary of state would not be arriving over the next couple of days.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a government official said the US was keeping Kerry’s travel plan under wraps this time around. “But he (Kerry) will certainly visit before Eid,” he added, without giving any exact date.

Another official disclosed that US authorities cautioned their Pakistani counterparts that the visit may be postponed again if the dates are made public.

This is the second time Kerry’s trip was being rescheduled. He was originally supposed to visit Pakistan in June. The original plan was scrapped, however, owing to developments in the Middle East.

Kerry will be the first high-ranking US official to visit Islamabad since the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government took charge following the May 11 general elections. His visit will provide both sides the first opportunity to share their perspective on a range of issues, from bilateral ties to the current situation in Afghanistan.

On Friday, US Ambassador Richard Olson met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to finalise the agenda for talks between Secretary Kerry and his Pakistani interlocutors.

The PML-N government has already made its expectations from Kerry’s visit very clear. The government intends to persuade the US into halting the CIA-led drone campaign in the country’s tribal areas.

But security and Afghanistan-related issues will not be the only features of the meetings between Kerry and Pakistani leaders. According to a foreign ministry official, Pakistan also wants to discuss several bilateral issues.

One of them is to resume the ‘strategic dialogue’ which is aimed at dispelling the impression that Pakistan-US cooperation is merely confined to security-related matters. The strategic dialogue could not take place since 2011 due to fragile nature of relations between the two countries.

The PML-N government will also seek to enhance economic and trade cooperation with the US.

“One of the central aspects of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s foreign policy is economic diplomacy,” commented one of his senior aides. He said based on this principle, the government would seek to broaden its cooperation with the US.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2013.