Press Availability with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani

Marc Grossman
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 
Islamabad, Pakistan
April 26, 2012

 Foreign Secretary Jilani: Let me first of all extend a very warm welcome to Ambassador Marc Grossman and his delegation. This is his first visit to Pakistan after completion of the parliamentary review of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Today, in our meeting, we have reviewed a wide range of our bilateral relations and exchanged useful views on matters of mutual interest.

Pakistan desires to re-engage with the United States of America and will be guided by the recommendations of our Parliament. At the core of the Parliamentary guidelines lies transparency, trust, and public ownership in the bilateral ties which would strengthen our relations on a long-term basis. We have reiterated the importance that we have accorded to our ties with the United States of America. We have, on the whole, remained close allies during more than six decades of our relationship. We wish to continue to re-validate our close and cooperative relations in the areas of mutual interests.

Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. are multifaceted. We wish to continue positive engagement with the United States on political, economic, and security issues. We have reaffirmed our commitment that Pakistan will continue to strive for peace, security, stability, and development for Afghanistan and in the region and internationally, which remains our shared objective.

Pakistan is keenly aware of the importance of the partnership approach in pursuance of our shared goals. We have conveyed to Ambassador Grossman this afternoon that Pakistan would continue to build friendly relations with the United States of America on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest.

Thank you so much. You have the floor, Ambassador Grossman.

Ambassador Grossman: Thank you very much, Foreign Secretary. First let me say that I am delighted to be back in Pakistan. May I also take the opportunity to thank the Foreign Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and the entire team on the Pakistani side for the hospitality that we have been shown today. I came here today to build upon the important conversation between President Obama and Prime Minister Gilani last month, as well as visits by General Mattis, General Allen, Deputy Secretary of State Nides, and USAID Administrator Shah. I also had the honor of meeting President Zardari in Dushanbe last month, and Finance Minister Shaikh, who’s been in Washington. This activity, I hope, will convey to all of you our commitment to strengthening this very important relationship.

I first want to reiterate the respect that the United States government has for the parliamentary review process that recently concluded and the seriousness with which that review process was undertaken. I think in fact this is something that Americans understand very well, a public discussion of issues of national interest. We respect the parliamentary process because we respect democracy.

The task now is to begin a conversation about how to move forward. What practical steps can we take to, as the Foreign Secretary said, advance the important relationship between the United States and Pakistan? We’ve come here today to begin that conversation. We start with the philosophy that the United States believes in a strong, mutually beneficial partnership, as the Foreign Secretary said, based on mutual respect. We respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and believe that U.S.-Pakistani cooperation can advance the interests and security of both our countries. We seek the ability to identify our shared interests and act on them jointly.

In February, in London, when Foreign Minister Khar and Secretary Clinton got together, Foreign Minister Khar suggested that once the Parliament completed its work, that we get together with teams from our two governments to engage on the broad set of issues that are critically important to both of us. I am here with that team today. As I reported to the Foreign Minister and to the Foreign Secretary, we are ready to get to work. We want to work to reopen the ground lines of communication. We want to discuss settling outstanding claims for the coalition support funds. We are ready to get to work on our shared counterterrorism objectives. We want to, as the Foreign Minister and the Foreign Secretary suggested, increase market access and economic opportunity. And as the Foreign Secretary just said, we want to work together to find ways to cooperate to make Afghanistan a more secure, and stable, and peaceful neighbor.

We have a strong interest in the stability and prosperity of Pakistan and the region, including a secure, stable, prosperous Afghanistan, and an end to the safehavens and enablers on both sides that allow violent extremists to threaten both of our peoples. We have a common enemy and a common cause. Pakistan, as we always say and as we were reminded this morning, has suffered terribly at the hands of terrorists and extremists. The United States recognizes that. That means that there is joint work to do to defeat terrorism and to defeat violent extremism. As Secretary Clinton recently said, there needs to be a coordinated and concerted effort to combat extremists of all kinds, whomever they may threaten.

I’d like to talk for just a moment about the events of November 26. We have offered our deepest regrets for this tragic incident, and I came today to offer again our sincerest condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. We respect your losses. And we’re committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.

Might I also say, looking forward to tomorrow, how pleased I am that Foreign Secretary Jilani would host a meeting of the Core Group, with representatives of the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, to continue to discuss the important issues of the Afghan peace process, and how that process can be supported by Pakistan and the United States.

I also want to underscore what Deputy Secretary Nides and USAID Administrator Shah said when they were here a couple of weeks ago. One of the interests we share is in the growth of our economies to create jobs and prosperity for our citizens. We concentrate our efforts in energy, economic growth, stabilization, education, and health, and we hope, we believe, that our contributions can help Pakistan become an even more prosperous and democratic state. Our goal is to move to a relationship based on trade, and private sector investment. We want to conclude the Bilateral Investment Treaty. And if I could take the opportunity to refer you as journalists to the excellent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Finance Minister Shaikh of the day before yesterday, I think he very eloquently focuses on the opportunities for trade and investment.

The Foreign Secretary said, and I have talked to the Foreign Minister about that we recognize the challenges of the past year. We respect the fact that parliament took the time, made the effort, to review this relationship. We should have a relationship that’s enduring and strategic, and clearly defined. It should be about identifying our shared interests and acting on them jointly. And this relationship should benefit both our nations, and enhance the security and prosperity of Pakistan, the United States, and the region. So I thank you very much and we look forward to your questions.

Question: I am Saleh Zafir from Jang Group of newspapers. Welcome to Pakistan. Mr. Ambassador Grossman, you have come after a gap of five to six months to this soil and you have come specifically about your narratives, but I have question which has three phases. First you must have gone through the verdicts of the Pakistan Parliament regarding its ties with the United States. Would you care to point out the parts of the proceedings of the Pakistan’s Parliament about which you have reservations? Second, you have just said you are regretting about the Salala incident. Can we expect that Mr. Obama at any point of time will offer unconditional apology on that account and because your troops have done cruelty in that case. And third, I’m sure that Pakistan would have asked United States to stop these drone attacks. What is your response about that since the world in this region, and not only in Pakistan, but in other parts of this region there is a demand that this drone use should be immediately stopped. Thank you.

Ambassador Grossman: Thank you very much. That’s three questions, right? (laughter) That’s right. Well first of all, thank you. I appreciate you welcoming me back. As I said to a number of people this morning, I’ve missed being here since last October. I’ve missed very much the conversations I’ve had with Pakistani government officials, with Parliamentarians and with others in civil society, so I’ve missed being back and I’m glad to be back. On the three questions you asked me, let me try to be as clear in my answers as you were in your questions.

First, I think the job of the United States of America is to respect the points that Parliament made and I think it wouldn’t be very useful for me or I don’t think it would be proper really, as a foreigner, to say I like this one, and I don’t like this one. Parliament has spoken.

Now, what has Parliament spoken about? Parliament has spoken about, I believe -- and again I’m not a Pakistani so I give you my view -Parliament has spoken about Pakistan being a sovereign country, about Pakistan being more successful, about Pakistan playing its proper role in the region. We respect all of those things. So I wouldn’t pick and choose. As the Foreign Secretary said, and I said to the Foreign Minister, we respect the views of Parliament, and the job now is to try to figure out how we go forward from here.

On your second question, I think that President Obama, sir, has spoken on this a issue extremely eloquently, and he did just as I did because I’m quoting him about respecting the loss, offering condolences to families, and regret for what happened, and very importantly also the commitment to work with Pakistan and Afghanistan so this doesn’t happen again.

(Question from the audience)

Ambassador Grossman: Third, on the question of counterterrorism. You know from our conversations over the many months, I will answer your question by saying that we have jointly an effort to make on counterterrorism, because on al-Qaeda, and other extremist groups, Pakistan and the United States have work to do together. And so one of the things we talked about this morning was how to pursue the counter terrorism question -- the counterterrorism challenge -- together. And I hope this afternoon that some of the working groups we can continue to do that and make some specific recommendations about how to go forward.

Question: Thank you sir. Shaukat Piracha from Aaj TV. Obviously when the two sides talk about these issues, the reopening of NATO supplies is one of these facts. I wish to ask from His Excellency, the Foreign Secretary, and Ambassador, your perspective as well, whether Pakistan has decided to reopen the NATO supply. Thank you.

Foreign Secretary Jilani: Thank you, Shaukat, for raising this question. The question regarding reopening of GLOCs has been part of our discussion this afternoon. There is going to be another exploratory meeting in order to look into various related issues. Let me make it clear that the arrangement with regard to the NATO supplies that existed prior to November would no more be valid. We have to work out a new arrangement. The process will begin as and when we get direction from the cabinet.

Ambassador Grossman: If I could just add to that. Thank you for the question. Obviously no decision has been taken for the reasons that the Foreign Secretary noted. We did not come here this morning to sit with the Foreign Minister to expect a decision. What we did seek, as the Foreign Secretary said, was a follow-on conversation for this afternoon -- and perhaps tomorrow as well -- so both sides can lay out their perspectives on how to go forward. I am greatly benefited by the fact that I have with me some excellent people who can work on this issue. I very much look forward to working with our Pakistani counterparts this afternoon to lay out this question about how to get these ground lines of communications reopened.

Question: Sir, this is Baqir Syed from Dawn. I have a question for both of you. Both of you have spoken about the ground lines of communication and counterterrorism. So would you specifically like to tell us what progress both of you were able to make in getting back to the normal relationship. And did you discuss drones?

Foreign Secretary Jilani: With respect to drones, the policy of the government is very, very clear. We consider drones as illegal, counter-productive, and accordingly unacceptable. This is an issue which has been a subject of discussion in all our meetings, including this afternoon. This is an issue that has also been discussed at the highest civilian and military leadership. As we reengage on various facets of our relationship, we would also like to find a solution which is in accordance with the recommendations and spirit of the Parliament as well as respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ambassador Grossman: May I just say, as you posed the question -- which is to say what progress have we made -- I would say one of the symbols of that progress was the meetings that I outlined for you: Foreign Minister Khar, Secretary Clinton, the President, the Prime Minister, Finance Minister Shaikh in Washington, D.C. Although this may perhaps seem immodest, I hope that you would also allow me to say that the fact that we are here and that I have with me a delegation of Americans to discuss the very issues that Parliament put on the table will, I hope, be considered by you some sign of progress as well. I want to repeat, nobody came here this afternoon to sit with the Foreign Minister or the Foreign Secretary expecting that we would solve these problems, but our goal -- and I believe we met that goal -- was to get ready now to take a next step. We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister, myself, and others, to set the basic philosophy and now our teams will get together and try to solve these problems. That is the job we have been given.

Question: I’m Essa Naqvi from Dunya Television. Can I briefly ask you, we have been listening from various spokespersons at various levels in the United States that the United States respects the parliamentary process and the recommendations that have come out of it, but there is a difference between respecting these recommendations and accepting them. How do you hope to further your relationship with Pakistan without accepting the recommendations because doing that you will be bypassing the Parliament that you respect. Thank you.

Ambassador Grossman: Well let me just say, first of all, that we live in a democracy as well. We have a Congress. We are quite used to this. That is to say that the Parliament has spoken in Pakistan. We respect that, and now we are working with the Government of Pakistan. We’ll figure out how to implement and consider these recommendations. But, you know, it is not for me, as someone who is not a Pakistani, to give you advice about that. What I can say is we read and respect what the Parliament says. Now the job is to begin the conversation about how to make that operational. That’s what we are doing.