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US to support free, responsible press: Burns

Washington: Renewing Washington’s commitment to a stable and prosperous Pakistan, a senior US diplomat has expressed the hope to accelerate the current positive trajectory in the bilateral relationship. According to a State Department statement released here Friday.

US Deputy Secretary of State William J Burns, who met the country’s top leadership, expressed support for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s economic policies as well as his efforts to “re-establish authority over all Pakistani territory in whatever way Pakistani deems appropriate.” During the visit, Burns said he also had the opportunity to emphasise America’s strong “commitment to, and support for, a free and responsible press here in Pakistan and around the world.”

“I stressed in all our discussions that President (Barack) Obama remains firmly committed to our shared goal of a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan,” Burns said in a statement, as he also referred to Secretary of State John Kerry’s personal commitment to make that goal a reality. “After some difficult years, our relationship is on a positive trajectory – a trajectory we hope to not only maintain, but accelerate.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Dar have undertaken courageous economic reforms and concrete steps to expand regional economic linkages, including with India, he said, adding “as Pakistan’s partner, we will do our part to be as supportive as we can.” Burns cited US strategic investments that have contributed to Pakistan’s economic growth, from funding the construction and rehabilitation of nearly 900 kilometres of roads to nearly $900 million in energy sector assistance, which will add 1400 megawatts to Pakistan’s power grid by the end of 2014.

“Next week, senior representatives of the two governments will meet in Washington to discuss our joint plan to increase trade and investment over the next five years.” Burns noted that militancy continues to threaten Pakistan’s revival. “Few countries have paid a heavier price than Pakistan in the fight against extremism. We support the Prime Minister’s efforts to re-establish authority over all Pakistani territory in whatever way Pakistan deems appropriate,” he said.

The United States, he said, appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to further Afghan-led reconciliation and “we remain hopeful that we will conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement later this year that will enable us to continue to train, advice and assist Afghan forces and go after the remnants of core al Qaida. This is deeply in our interest and in the interest of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the rest of South and Central Asia.”

“This is a moment of opportunity for the US-Pakistan relationship. We share a deep stake in continuing to strengthen the foundations of our partnership. And we share a deep commitment to putting that partnership to work to realise our shared vision of a more peaceful and prosperous Pakistan and a more peaceful and prosperous South Asia.”

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