U.S., Pakistan Need to ‘Get it Right,’ Obama Says

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2012 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma today met with Pakistan’s prime min­is­ter and said he wel­comes the Pak­istani parliament’s review of the coun­tries’ bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship.

Oba­ma met with Yousuf Raza Gilani in Seoul, South Korea, where the two are par­tic­i­pat­ing in an inter­na­tion­al nuclear secu­ri­ty sum­mit.

“I want to express my appre­ci­a­tion to Prime Min­is­ter Gilani for the work that he’s done in try­ing to strength­en the rela­tion­ship between our two coun­tries,” Oba­ma said. “There have been times — I think we should be frank — over the last sev­er­al months where those rela­tions have expe­ri­enced strains.”

The Unit­ed States has had increas­ing­ly tense rela­tions with Pak­istan over ter­ror­ist safe havens in Pakistan’s west­ern bor­der region with Afghanistan. The sit­u­a­tion wors­ened in May when U.S. forces killed al-Qai­da leader Osama bin Laden inside Pak­istan, then bot­tomed out in Novem­ber when U.S. forces killed 24 Pak­istani troops along the bor­der in what was described as a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion about return­ing fire.

Pak­istan respond­ed by clos­ing its over­land sup­ply route to NATO forces in Afghanistan and called for an assess­ment of U.S.-Pakistani rela­tions.

“I wel­come the fact that the par­lia­ment in Pak­istan is review­ing, after some exten­sive study, the nature of this rela­tion­ship,” Oba­ma said before his meet­ing with Gilani. “I think that it’s impor­tant for us to get it right. I think it’s impor­tant for us to have can­did dia­logue to work through these issues in a con­struc­tive fash­ion and a trans­par­ent fash­ion.”

With that review and work by U.S. offi­cials, Oba­ma said, he expects to achieve a bal­anced approach that respects Pakistan’s sov­er­eign­ty and U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns, as well as the need to bat­tle ter­ror­ists.

Gilani said he appre­ci­at­ed Obama’s com­ments about Pakistan’s sov­er­eign­ty, and that the Pak­istani par­lia­ment would take up dis­cus­sion of the rela­tion­ship April 1.

“We are com­mit­ted to fight against extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism,” Gilani said. “It is in the inter­est of Pak­istan for a sta­ble, peace­ful, pros­per­ous, inde­pen­dent, sov­er­eign Afghanistan. We want sta­bil­i­ty in Afghanistan. If there is a sta­bil­i­ty in Afghanistan, it’s a sta­bil­i­ty in Pak­istan.

“We want to work togeth­er with you to have all the peace, pros­per­i­ty and progress of the whole world,” he added. “And we want to work togeth­er.”

Oba­ma spoke of the two coun­tries’ mutu­al inter­ests of com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism, cre­at­ing eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment, nuclear secu­ri­ty, and a sta­ble and secure Afghanistan “that will ben­e­fit not only Pak­istan, but also the entire world.”

“I want to express to the prime min­is­ter my appre­ci­a­tion for his recog­ni­tion that it’s in both of our inter­ests, and indeed in all of our inter­ests, to see an Afghan-led rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process,” the pres­i­dent said.

Oba­ma also thanked Gilani for tak­ing part in the nuclear secu­ri­ty sum­mit.

“I think that we all agree that giv­en the threats that have been direct­ed in Pak­istan, the ter­ror­ism that has tak­en place on their own soil, and obvi­ous­ly our expe­ri­ences with ter­ror­ism, we can’t afford to have non-state actors — ter­ror­ists — get their hands on nuclear weapons that could end up destroy­ing our cities or harm­ing our cit­i­zens,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)