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British foreign secretary arrives in Pakistan

June 12, 2012 13:18 IST

British Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday for talks with the Pakistani leadership on bilateral relations and the situation in war-torn Afghanistan.

Hague flew into Pakistan hours after the United States announced it was pulling out negotiators following a stalemate in discussions to reopen North Atlantic Treaty Organisation supply routes to Afghanistan, triggering speculation that his visit could be aimed at helping overcome the differences between Islamabad and Washington.

A statement issued by the British High Commission said Hague would discuss bilateral relations, the importance the United Kingdom attaches to the upcoming elections in Pakistan and mutual interests in promoting stability in the region ahead of the Kabul conference.

Hague's visit follows the trip made by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to London in March and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's visit in May and "underlines the UK's  commitment to a deep, long-term and strategic relationship" with Pakistan based on mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit, the statement said.

The US on Monday said it was pulling out negotiators who were discussing the reopening of NATO supply lines shortly after Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez  Kayani refused to meet US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Lavoy, who visited the country over the weekend.

Pakistan closed the supply lines after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 of its soldiers in November. The two sides have been unable to finalise a deal on reopening the supply routes due to Islamabad's insistence on an apology for the NATO attack and differences over the fees to be paid for NATO containers and tankers passing through Pakistani territory.

The US has expressed regret for the NATO attack, which it blamed on lapses on both sides, but it has refused to offer a formal apology.

Foreign Minister Khar has said an apology is required for reopening the supply lines.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad