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Pakistan lifts Nato blockade after US apology

Pakistan is reopening key supply routes into Afghanistan closed since November, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said today, adding the US was sorry for the losses of the Pakistani military.

world Updated: Jul 04, 2012 02:50 IST
pakistan

Pakistan is reopening key supply routes into Afghanistan closed since November, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday, adding the US was sorry for the losses of the Pakistani military.

During a telephone conversation on Tuesday with her Pakistani counterpart foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, she "informed me that the ground supply lines into Afghanistan are opening," Clinton said.

Islamabad has long demanded that Washington must apologize for the air raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, before it would reopen the Nato routes, closed in anger after the US attack. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/7/04_07_12-metro15b.jpg

"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."

Earlier, Pakistan's new prime minister acknowledged that continuing the seven-month blockade was negatively affecting relations with the United States and other Nato member states.

"The continued closure of supply lines not only impinge our relationship with the US, but also on our relations with the 49 other member states of Nato," Raja Pervez Ashraf told a meeting of top civilian and military leaders.

A senior government official said the defense committee of cabinet had met to discuss whether to end the blockade, but his office stopped short of announcing any decision after the talks ended.

The blockade has forced the alliance to rely on longer, more expensive northern routes through Russia and Central Asia.

Initial hopes of a deal on re-opening the routes had fallen 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 Tuesday: "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."

Reopening the routes would help the United States and Nato to complete its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan "at a much lower cost," Clinton said.

"This is critically important to the men and women who are fighting terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan."

All foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, some 13 years after the US invasion of 2001 which toppled the Islamic hardline Taliban regime.

NATO and the United States have also committed to hand over control of day-to-day combat operations to Afghan security forces by mid-2013.

Clinton added that during the phone call with Khar she had "once again reiterated our deepest regrets for the tragic incident in Salala last November.

"I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives."