Tuesday, 22 May 2012 00:16
CHICAGO: Pakistan said Monday it has ordered negotiators to conclude a deal with the United States to reopen vital supply routes to NATO convoys, as the alliance's chief expressed optimism that an agreement was near.
In a speech to leaders from countries in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, President Asif Ali Zardari said the cabinet's Defense Committee "decided to direct the relevant officials to conclude negotiations for resumption of the Ground Lines of Communication" needed to supply foreign troops in Afghanistan.
The routes are a crucial logistical link for NATO as it plans a withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2014. But US officials have rejected Pakistani proposals to charge steep fees on alliance trucks passing over the border.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that he expected Pakistan eventually to reopen the border crossing to allied convoys despite failing to reach a deal at a summit in Chicago.
"We didn't expect an agreement on the Pakistan transit routes to be reached at this summit. That was not planned," Rasmussen said.
But he added: "I express some optimism as regards the possibility to see a reopening of transit routes in the very near future."
In his address, Zadari called the botched air raid "a serious setback" that "required that we review our engagement and cooperation."
The Pakistani parliament "has spoken in favor of cooperation and a partnership approach," he said.
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012