US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday on Pakistan’s economy and Afghanistan-related issues.
Cross-border terrorism has been on the rise in Pakistan, with local authorities blaming Kabul for harbouring terrorists, particularly the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Secretary Blinken underlined a “productive US-Pakistan partnership” in a phone chat with FM Bilawal, according to State Department spokeswoman Matthew Miller.
The secretary emphasised that the Pakistani people had suffered greatly as a result of terrorist acts and reaffirmed the US commitment to continuing counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan.
The secretary and foreign minister also discussed the destabilising impact of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, as well as the shared interest of the United States and Pakistan in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
The conversation happened only hours after US Central Command (Centcom) chief General Michael Erik Kurilla met with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir in Rawalpindi to review the regional security situation.
Aside from the regional security situation, items of mutual interest and defence cooperation were also covered, according to a statement issued by the military’s media wing.
Both Pakistan and the United States have urged war-torn Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from using its country as a safe haven.
The US reiterated last week that the Afghan Taliban must ensure that their country is not used for terror attacks, while the Pakistan Army’s top brass stated that the safe havens and freedom of action available to terrorists of the proscribed TTP and other groups of that ilk in Afghanistan is one of the major factors affecting Islamabad’s security.
During the call with FM Bilawal, Secretary Blinken emphasised the US’s unwavering commitment to the people of Pakistan, emphasising that Pakistan’s economic growth remains a key priority for the US.
The secretary stated that the United States would continue to engage with Pakistan through technical and development projects, as well as through our strong trade and investment connections.
He also hailed the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) acceptance of a package to assist Pakistan and urged the continuation of reforms to foster economic growth and prosperity.
Secretary Blinken emphasised the importance of democratic ideals and respect for the rule of law in the US-Pakistan relationship, and that these values will continue to drive the cooperation forward.
The lender authorised a much-anticipated $3 billion rescue for Pakistan earlier this month, preventing the country from defaulting on debt commitments. Pakistan sought US assistance in convincing the IMF to grant the loan.
Black Sea Grain Initiative
Separately, the foreign minister spoke by phone with Josep Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Concerned about the expiration of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), Pakistan’s foreign minister stated that the following food inflation and food security difficulties would harm developing countries like Pakistan, which were already under economic hardship.
The agreement allowing Ukraine’s grain to be exported safely through the Black Sea expired last week when Russia withdrew and warned that it could not guarantee ship safety.
According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, millions of people would “pay the price” for Russia’s decision to quit the Ukraine grain deal, which will “strike a blow to people in need everywhere.”
In a news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, FM Bilawal stated that it was “in the world’s interest” to restore the grain programme.
During the call, the foreign minister informed Blinken that he had also discussed the issue with his Ukrainian and Turkish counterparts.
He hoped that efforts to resurrect the programme would bear fruit via communication and constructive involvement, taking into account the interests of all stakeholders.
The foreign minister asked the EU High Representative to play a role in finding a solution that would allow BSGI to be renewed, and expressed Pakistan’s willingness to contribute to collective efforts in this respect.