US, Pakistan keen on Obama-Sharif meeting

Sep 19, 2013

WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan want a substantial discussion on several key issues and that’s why both are working to bring Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Washington in late October or early November, US and diplomatic sources told Dawn.


The sources were commenting on news reports that US President Barack Obama and Mr Sharif will not have a formal meeting during the Pakistani prime minister’s visit to New York next week.

“While we cannot yet rule out a formal meeting in New York, both sides seem more interested in an extended meeting at a later date in Washington,” said a diplomatic source.

“The impression that either the Americans or the Pakistanis are trying to avoid a meeting between the two leaders is totally wrong. They do want a meeting and they want a substantial meeting,” the source added.

A possible slot for the prime minister’s visit opens up in the last week of October which was reserved for an official visit by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil. On Tuesday, Brazil informed Washington that it was postponing the official visit in protest at the spying activities of the US National Security Agency.

The White House also has indicated another opening in the first week of November.

The prime minister is coming to New York on Sept 22 to attend the UN General Assembly session. On Sept 24 he will attend a dinner that President Obama is hosting.

Mr Obama returns to Washington the same night and on Sept 27 he will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for talks that will focus on the US plan to withdraw its combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

Prime Minister Sharif will stay in New York where he is likely to meet Mr Singh for talks aimed at reducing tensions between the two leaders. Mr Sharif is also likely to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai during the UN session.

Diplomatic sources in Washington pointed out that the invitation for a meeting between the US and Pakistani leaders came from Washington. “So it’s wrong to suggest that the Americans are now dragging their feet,” said a source. “Both sides are keen on this meeting.”

US Secretary of State John F. Kerry delivered the surprise invitation during his visit to Pakistan last saying, saying that he had “extended on behalf of the President of the United States an invitation to Prime Minister Sharif to meet with the president at a bilateral meeting with him in the United States this fall.”

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative in United Nations Masood Khan said at a recent briefing that preparations for a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and President Obama had already been finalised.