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US defence chief James Mattis arrives in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: United States Secretary of Defence James Mattis has arrived here on a day-long visit to hold talks with Pakistani civil and military leaders to persuade them to support the Trump administration’s policy for Afghanistan.

Mattis will hold meetings with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, according to a statement issued by the US Defence Department.

During the meetings, he will discuss regional security, peace, Afghan conflict and other bilateral issues.

Speaking to journalists before embarking on a five-day trip to Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and Kuwait, Mattis said he is visiting Islamabad for the first time as secretary of defence.

He said the US was committed to pragmatic relations with Pakistan and his country wanted to enhance cooperation with Islamabad on the basis of mutual interests.

Reiterating the Trump administration’s demand for eliminating alleged terror safe havens from the Pakistani soil, the US top official said he would have a detailed discussion with Pakistani officials over President Donald Trump’s policy for South Asia and Afghanistan.

He said he would try to convince Islamabad to support the Afghan policy.

“Since Pakistani leaders say the country does not support terrorism, I want to see that statement pronounced in their policies,” Mattis said.

He acknowledged Pakistan suffered significant losses because of operations against terrorists.

The action against terrorists is in the interest of Pakistan, he added.

The United States wanted Islamabad to play its role for bringing stability to the region, Mattis said and added it will have to ensure that its soil is not used to launch offensive against neighboring countries.

Pakistan and the US have been unable to bridge their differences despite a series of high-level meetings in the wake of President Donald Trump’s speech bitterly criticizing Pakistan for allegedly housing the very terrorists Americans are fighting in Afghanistan.



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