We are sorry!
* Clinton says US committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent Salala-type incident from ever happening again
WASHINGTON: Pakistan has agreed to reopen its border to NATO supply convoys into Afghanistan after a seven-month blockade, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday, adding Washington was sorry for the loss of life in a botched US air raid last year.
The supply routes have been shut since November, when an American aircraft killed 24 Pakistan soldiers, aggravating already difficult relations between Washington and Islamabad. The announcement, following months of negotiations, will come as a relief to the United States and its NATO allies which need the routes for a planned withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan through 2014.
During a telephonic conversation on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar “informed me that the ground supply lines into Afghanistan are opening”, Clinton said.
Islamabad has long demanded that Washington apologise for the deadly air raid before it would reopen the NATO 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.”
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.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf acknowledged that keeping up the seven-month blockade would damage 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 told a meeting of top civilian and military leaders.
A senior Pakistani official said the Defence Committee of the Cabinet had met to discuss whether to end the blockade, but his office stopped short of announcing any decision after the talks ended.
The defence committee groups together the most senior cabinet ministers and military commanders. Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, and the head of the ISI intelligence agency, Zaheerul Islam, were among those present. afp