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'US-Pak may sign pact on NATO routes'

July 07, 2012 17:30 IST
An understanding between Pakistan and the United States on reopening the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation supply routes to Afghanistan after a seven-month blockade may soon be replaced by a new bilateral logistics pact.

"We have resumed our relations from the point where we left in November last year," US Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Hoagland was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper on Saturday while referring to the arrangement governing the supply routes.

However, the daily quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the reopening under the previous arrangement was done as a stopgap arrangement after the government agreed to permit NATO supplies to pass through the country.

Pakistan and the US are now negotiating a memorandum of understanding for transit of US cargo. Other NATO countries, if interested, may later accede to it. "The idea behind the new agreement is to manage the transit traffic," an unnamed official said.

The negotiations on the new arrangement, which started in early May, continued till last month and sources said 90 per cent of the technical discussions had been completed.

"Now with the political decision taken, the MoU could be signed soon," a source told the daily.

The proposed MoU will go through the process set by Parliament for signing of any agreement with a foreign government.

The supply lines were reopened earlier this week under the agreement that existed at the time they were closed last November in response to a NATO attack on a border check post that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan ended the seven-month blockade after the US\ ologised for the attack. t was not immediately clear why Pakistan and the US have pted for a bilateral agreement instead of one involving all NATO countries.

The report said negotiators might be looking at the post-2014 scenario when NATO will have withdrawn its forces from Afghanistan and it would be mainly the US that would be using the routes.

Statements from Pakistani leaders prior to the reopening of the routes suggested that Islamabad does not want strains with Washington in future to affect ties with other countries involved in Afghanistan.

Pakistan and the US, as part of their talks on reopening the routes, have been discussing American assistance for repairing roads used for transporting cargo to Afghanistan.

These discussions have been taking place with Pakistan's finance ministry and the National highway authority, which has already identified several sections of highway that need repair. It is likely that the US, instead of directly funding the repairs, might get the work done through an international financial institution.

 

 

 

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