US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the US says “sorry” for the losses suffered by Pakistani military in the Salala check post attack.
Pakistan is reopening vital Nato supply routes into Afghanistan closed since a deadly November attack, Clinton added.
Federal Minister for Communication Qamar Zaman Kaira, reading out a formal decision of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet announced that the Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs) were being opened. He added that no lethal Nato cargo will be allowed, except for that which is meant for Afghan security forces.
During a telephone conversation with her Pakistani counterpart Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, she “informed me that the ground supply lines into Afghanistan are opening,” Clinton said.
Islamabad had long said that Washington must apologise for the air raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers before it would re-open the routes, closed in anger after the US attack.
“Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives,” Clinton said in a statement.
“We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”
The blockade has forced the alliance to rely on longer, more expensive northern routes through Russia and Central Asia.
No transit fee
Initial hopes of a deal on re-opening the routes fell apart at a Nato summit in Chicago in May amid reports that Pakistan was demanding huge fees for each of the thousands of trucks that rumble across the border every year.
But Clinton said: “Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region.
“This is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region. This will also help the United States and ISAF conduct the planned drawdown at a much lower cost.”
The statement said that the Pakistani minister announced that “no lethal equipment will transit the GLOC into Afghanistan except for equipping the ANSF.
Clinton said that she and the foreign minister spoke about “the importance of taking coordinated action against terrorists who threaten Pakistan, the United States, and the region; of supporting Afghanistan’s security, stability, and efforts towards reconciliation; and of continuing to work together to advance the many other shared interests we have, from increasing trade and investment to strengthening our people-to-people ties.”
She added that both the countries should have a “relationship that is enduring, strategic, and carefully defined, and that enhances the security and prosperity of both our nations and the region.”
Pakistan Taliban threatened to attack Nato supply routes after the announcement of reopening Nato supply routes came.
Severely strained ties between the United States and Pakistan are poised to improve after the two countries agreed to reopen ground routes key for the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States said.
“We appreciate Secretary Clinton’s statement, and hope that bilateral ties can move to a better place from here. I am confident that both countries can agree on many critical issues, especially on bringing peace to the region,” Ambassador Sherry Rehman said in a statement.
The US commander of Nato troops fighting the Taliban welcomed Pakistan’s decision to reopen Nato supply lines into Afghanistan after a seven-month blockade.
General John Allen made the remarks in a statement released in Kabul that also paid tribute to the “sacrifices” made by Pakistani, as well as Afghan and Nato troops in the war.
“I look forward to future opportunities to work together toward our common goals, by taking coordinated action against terrorists,” he said.
On the reopening of supply routes, Secretary Defence Leon Panetta said, “I welcome Pakistan’s decision to open the ground lines of communication. As I have made clear, we remain committed to improving our partnership with Pakistan and to working closely together as our two nations confront common security challenges in the region.”
The Salala incident had prompted Pakistan to conduct a policy review of its ties with the US, demanding that the US issue a high-level apology over the incident, and end drone strikes before the routes would be reopened.
The US, on numerous occasions expressed regret over the incident, but did not offer a clear apology as demanded by Pakistan. ISAF Commander General Allen had also offered a “personal apology” to Pakistan army chief.
Clinton’s statement came as Pakistan held a meeting of its Defence Committee for Cabinet (DCC), chaired by Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, to discuss the Nato blockade.