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US, Pakistan hold first strategic dialogue in over three years

Pakistan has warned the United States that it will have to face the brunt of any instability in Afghanistan when the NATO troops pull out later this year.

WASHINGTON: Pakistan has warned the United States that it will have to face the brunt of any instability in Afghanistan when the NATO troops pull out later this year.

Senior officials from both countries were speaking on Monday in Washington at their first strategic dialogue in over three years.

US Secretary of State John Kerry hosted Pakistan foreign-affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz, and said Pakistan had the capability to rebound from its economic stagnation and become what he called a "tiger economy for the 21st century.

The talks mark significant progress in Washington relationship with Islamabad, which have suffered in recent times.

The talks comes after a rocky three years for the US-Pakistan relationship, which hit new lows after attack on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbotabad.

The aim of this dialogue is to try and draw up a blueprint to shape the bilateral relationship over the next six months to a year. They will be focusing on five key areas of cooperation - energy, defence, strategic stability, economic and financial matters and law enforcement and counter-terrorism.

The US has stressed that it is keen to maintain good ties with Pakistan on its own account and not just because of its border with Afghanistan.

In his opening remarks, Kerry was careful to emphasise that the dialogue will focus on other topics apart from security. He also checked off issues including women's rights, investment in infrastructure and energy ties.

However, the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will inevitably be a major topic for these talks since it is of major concern to Pakistan.

Mr Aziz said: "In pursuing this goal of a responsible end to the long war in Afghanistan, we have to ensure that Afghanistan successfully transitions into a period of stability and that past mistakes are not repeated."

He added that Pakistan is "very keen to work together with the US and other countries in the region to encourage an Afghan led reconciliation process for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan".

Meanwhile, Kerry avoided any specific discussion of a US troop drawdown in Afghanistan after President Hamid Karzai refused to sign the bilateral security agreement which would allow US troops to remain in the country.

Kerry did, however, said the issue is critical for both US and Pakistan.

"It remains essential for the United States and Pakistan to continue to find avenues of cooperation on counter-terrorism, on nuclear security." said Kerry.

He added: "We recognise that Pakistan is a vital partner in supporting a secure Afghanistan and we know how closely Pakistan's own security is linked to Afghanistan's success. That's why addressing the threats posed to both Pakistan and Afghanistan by cross border militancy is a key aspect of our conversations this week."

It seems likely that this dialogue will help improve ties on a whole host of issues, and illustrates how far the two countries have come since 2010 but until the future of US troops in Afghanistan is resolved, the question of their security partnership is still up in the air.

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