WASHINGTON: Senior US Senator John Kerry said Thursday he and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had discussed a Nato strike inside Pakistan that roiled ties between the uneasy “war on terrorism” allies.
“We had a good conversation about it. I think we will work through this,” Kerry told AFP after Pakistan shut down the main land route for Nato supplies into Afghanistan after charging the Nato raid killed Pakistani troops.
“Obviously they are concerned, and ought to be, when there is collateral damage. We need to try to avoid it, and we do,” said Kerry, who as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman has worked to improve US ties to Pakistan.
The senior Democratic lawmaker has made multiple trips to the region and shepherded legislation to vastly increase US assistance to Pakistan in a bid to soothe Islamabad’s historic mistrust of Washington.
“They have some very critical day to day challenges right now and I think that’s really what’s preoccupying them to the greatest degree,” Kerry said, without elaborating.
His comments came after a brief public appearance with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who ignored a shouted question about whether the United States would consider suspending operations in Pakistan after the strike.
Nato has said its aircraft entered Pakistani airspace early Thursday in self defense and killed “several armed individuals” after air crews believed they had been fired at from the ground.
A Pakistan military spokesman in a statement said two helicopters from Afghanistan used cannon fire against an outpost of the Frontier Corps located 200 meters (650 feet) inside Pakistan.
When troops at the post retaliated with rifle fire to show the helicopters were entering Pakistan territory, the aircraft fired two missiles, destroying the site, killing three of the six Frontier Corps there, the spokesman said.
ISAF said it had been informed by Pakistani military officials that members of their border forces had been hit by coalition aircraft and said a review was underway “to verify the exact location of the two engagements and the facts”. -AFP