ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed with Pakistan on Thursday to re-establish a “full partnership” hurt by U.S. drone strikes and a 2011 NATO air attack in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.
Speaking after talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad, Kerry said the two sides were serious about overcoming past irritants. He invited Sharif to visit the United States for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.
“What was important today was that there was a determination by the United States and by Pakistan to move this relationship to the full partnership that it ought to be, and to find the ways to deal with individual issues that have been irritants over the course of the past years,” Kerry said.
“And I believe that the Prime Minister is serious about doing that. And I know that President Obama is also.”
Kerry arrived in Pakistan late on Wednesday on an unannounced visit.
Both sides are keen to put behind past tensions and start afresh, a shift in priorities they hope is possible with a new government in Pakistan and a new secretary of state in the United States.
But continued U.S. drone strikes against militants in Pakistan’s northwest remain a big hurdle. Speaking alongside Kerry, Sartaj Aziz, Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs, said Pakistan wanted the United States to end the strikes.
“Drone attacks are counterproductive to our relationship,” he said.
As for the future of U.S.-led troops in neighbouring Afghanistan, Kerry said he was confident the United States would reach agreement on future troop levels in a timely way. “We are drawing down, not withdrawing,” he said.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Ron Popeski