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U.S. To Restart Strategic Dialogue With Islamabad

Kerry Holds Talks In Islamabad
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WATCH: U.S. Secretary Of State John Kerry holds talks In Islamabad.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington is restarting a "strategic dialogue" on security issues with Pakistan.

Kerry announced the development at a joint news conference with Pakistan's foreign affairs adviser, Sartaj Aziz, in Islamabad on August 1.

Kerry told journalists that both sides hope to remove "irritants" in their relations.

"I believe that the [Pakistani] Prime Minister [Nawaz Sharif] is serious about doing that, I know that [U.S.] President [Barack] Obama is also, which is why the president looks forward to meeting the prime minister in about a month or so in the United States," he added.

Sources of friction between the two countries include militant safe havens in Pakistan and Washington's controversial drone program, which targets militants.

Aziz insisted that Islamabad was adamant that the United States must stop strikes by unmanned aerial drones targeting militants inside Pakistan.

"We have relayed our concern and will continue to do so that drone attacks are counterproductive in terms of our relationship," he said. "So, in the light of today's discussion, we will continue this dialogue on how to stop this policy of drone attacks as far as the U.S. is concerned. We are asking for stopping [drone attacks], not just containment."

Kerry admitted there were issues of "sovereignty," but tackled complaints about "violations of sovereignty" by raising the subject of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who is believed to be based in Pakistan.

Kerry said Zawahri was violating Pakistan's sovereignty by launching attacks on mosques, marketplaces, and villages inside the country.

'A Peaceful Afghanistan'

Among the incidents that led to a breakdown in the U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue was a U.S. strike on a Pakistani border post near Afghanistan in 2011 that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The U.S. mission to kill Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan in 2011 also caused relations to falter.

Aziz reiterated that Islamabad would help facilitate talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Kerry highlighted the importance of Afghanistan in their talks.

"Both of our countries share an interest in a unified, stable, and peaceful Afghanistan," he said. "And so we greatly appreciate Pakistan's assistance in the Afghan reconciliation process and that is a process that obviously will take time and perseverance."

Kerry said he was confident that Washington and Kabul would reach a long-term security agreement that would allow U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai suspended talks on a post-2014 U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after Washington and Islamabad supported the opening of a Taliban political office in Qatar in June.

Earlier on August 1, Kerry met with Sharif and other senior government officials. Before their meeting, Sharif described Kerry as a "wonderful friend."

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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