PM opts for summit-level talks with Obama in DC

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THE NATION, ISLAMABAD, 20th SEPTEMBER 2013:- Pakistan has opted for summit-level talks with the US in Washington after the general debate of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly.
Prime Minister’s top Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, told The Nation Thursday that Obama Administration gave two options for bilateral talks, one on the sidelines of the UNGA session this month and the other a few weeks later.
“We decided that the second option is better as we have a whole lot of issues to discuss with the US,” he noted, pointing to tight window for talks on margins of the UNGA session due to numerous meetings taking place on the sidelines.
A key factor in this decision was the need for a more substantive, structured dialogue given it would be the new government’s first formal interaction with the US President. The fact that the two countries are to resume important strategic dialogue in the coming months could have been another reason.
Hence it is official now that PM would undertake a separate bilateral visit to the US, most likely sometime next month or early November. The dates are currently being worked out through diplomatic channels.
“Dates of the visit will be announced soon,” Aziz said when asked about it. Reportedly during his visit here in August, US Secretary of State John Kerry had delivered an invite to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Washington.
Sharif and Obama will however have an opportunity for a handshake and brief exchange of pleasantries at a dinner reception that the US President is to host for the world leaders attending the UNGA session in New York on September 24.
On the matter of release of the former Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Aziz categorically stated that a decision has been taken to release him and it would be done “very soon”. However, he made it clear that he will not be handed over to the Afghan government or sent to Turkey or Saudi Arabia as being speculated.
“On release Mullah Baradar will first establish contact with his family, meet the Taliban leadership to discuss the future course of action for the Afghan reconciliation process and then decide for himself where he wants to proceed,” PM’s Adviser categorically stated.
Maqbool Malik adds: Earlier, addressing weekly news briefing, Foreign Office Spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif who is scheduled to visit New York from September 23-29 would address the UN General Assembly session on September 27.
“The Prime Minister will himself finalise contents of his speech. However it is expected that he will highlight Pakistan’s viewpoint on various national, regional and international issues,” Aizaz Chaudhry maintained.
He said the Prime Minister in his address to the General Assembly would also dilate upon the efforts of the present government to curb the menace of terrorism besides its endeavour to bring stability to the region.
The spokesperson said during his week-long stay in the New York, the Prime Minister would also hold bilateral meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the General Assembly session. He will discuss various bilateral and regional issues with these leaders, he added.
The Spokesperson said it is expected that the Prime Minister will also attend various events during his stay in New York including high-level meetings on millennium development goals sustainable development and nuclear disarmament.
He said both Islamabad and Washington are in touch for a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President Barack Obama in the coming months, adding that so far the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York will not be held due to paucity of time.

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