The first delegation-level talks in five months over the past two days failed to break the deadlock that has stymied the Pakistan-U.S. relationship.

While Islamabad is insistent on an unconditional apology from Washington for the Salala attack in which NATO helicopters killed 24 Pakistan Army soldiers at a border outpost on November 26, the U.S. is reluctant to oblige, particularly after the April 15 coordinated attacks in Afghanistan that were supposed to have been the handiwork of the Haqqani network allegedly sheltered by Pakistan.

The U.S., in turn, wants the groundlines of communication — Washington's choice of words for NATO supply lines through Pakistan into Afghanistan — to be reopened and security ensured. But Islamabad is flagging Parliament's guidelines for re-engagement with the U.S., which include an unconditional apology for Salala, as a pre-condition as the NATO supply lines were closed in reaction to that attack.

In his meeting with U.S. envoy Marc Grossman, President Asif Ali Zardari said: “After Pakistan has followed the democratic course for re-engagement with the U.S. to be based on transparency, mutual interest and respect, it was now the U.S. turn to fully appreciate the democratic course and help Pakistan in reaching closure on Salala by helping the Pakistan government follow the path as indicated by Parliament.”

For Islamabad, this closure could come with an apology from Washington which has till date regretted the incident and offered condolences. Asked if President Barack Obama would tender an unconditional apology, Mr. Grossman said “he has already spoken on this extremely eloquently”.

According to The New York Times, the U.S. had been actively considering offering the apology till the April 15 simultaneous terror attacks in several cities of Afghanistan. The U.S. said investigations revealed that these attacks were directed by the Haqqani network against whom the U.S. had been pressurising Pakistan to take action for years.

That no agreements were reached during this meeting was also confirmed at the State Department briefing on Friday. Asked if any decision had been taken on reopening the groundlines of communication, the spokesperson said: “There were no agreements reached today. As Ambassador Grossman said in Islamabad, this is the beginning of the reengagement conversation. We're going to have to work through these issues, and it's going to take some time.”

Keywords: Pak-US ties

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