Senator John Kerry defending the US decision to keep Osama operation secret said that he was not visiting Islamabad to apologize but to press the “reset button” in US-Pakistan relations.
In a statement to media after holding lengthy meetings with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari, and military chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the US senator said that he held “constructive exchange of views”.
Senator Kerry is the first high-level US official to visit Islamabad after Osama’s killing in a Hollywood style operation right at the back of Pakistan military academy in Abbottabad city.
Senator Kerry offered Pakistan renewal of constructive partnership, which has strained since the United States’ unilateral operation. He said that the operation was kept secret “strictly for reasons of operational security and not of mistrust of Pakistani leadership”.
He said even in the U.S. government, very few people knew about it.
Senator Kerry said that it was important to press the “reset button” in US-Pakistan relations and use this opportunity to put the relationship back on track and work jointly to bring about the most effective cooperation to combat terrorism, which is in both countries’ interest.
“We must never lose sight of this essential fact. We are strategic partners with a common enemy in terrorism and extremism”, he said, adding, “Both of our countries have sacrificed… so much that it just wouldn’t make sense to see this relationship broken or abandoned”.
While, the military in a statement earlier said that Senator Kerry was told the Abbottabad operation was intensely felt within its rank and file, the US senator said that he “expressed as clearly as possible grave concerns in the United States over Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and existence here of sanctuaries for adversaries in Afghanistan”.
A US embassy statement said that the Pakistani leadership conveyed to Senator Kerry that Pakistan was a victim of terrorism and that Osama bin Laden was an enemy of Pakistan, and Al-Qaida had declared war against Pakistan.
It was agreed during the talks, said the embassy’s statement, that both the US and Pakistan must recognize and respect each other’s national interests, particularly in countering terrorism and in working together for promoting reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.
Senator Kerry also announced that senior US officials will visit Pakistan soon to have further discussions on the way forward and to complete preparatory work for Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to Pakistan in the near future.
It was agreed that the two sides would intensify their engagement through official channels and that negative media messages were misplaced and detrimental to the core national interests of both the U.S. and Pakistan, said the statement.