Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan will meet Donald Trump for the first time on July 22 and their focus will be on refreshing bilateral relations, which was hit after the US President publicly criticised Pakistan, cancelled military aid and asked it to do more to fight terrorism.
Khan will make his maiden trip to the United States on the invitation of President Trump, Foreign Office Spokesperson Muhammad Faisal announced during his weekly press conference here on Thursday.
The relations between Pakistan and the US nose-dived after President Trump last year accused Islamabad of giving nothing to Washington but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists.
Khan had said in January 2018 that meeting Trump would be a “bitter pill” to swallow should he become Pakistan’s prime minister in elections later that year, but added “I would meet him.” He won the elections and was sworn in as Prime Minister in August last year.
During Prime Minister Khan’s visit, the focus will be on “refreshing bilateral relations,” Faisal told reporters.
Last month, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that President Trump had invited Prime Minister Khan in June but he could not undertake the visit because of the budget session.
He also said that talks between the two leaders would focus on “important regional matters”.
Trump was consistent in his criticism of Pakistan after launching his South Asia and Afghanistan strategy in 2017.
The US has repeatedly asked Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds.
In September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and Taliban active on its soil. Trump criticised Pakistan in a Twitter post back in November, saying Islamabad was not doing enough to stop terrorism.
In March, President Trump indicated his readiness to meet Pakistan’s new leadership, amidst the ongoing peace talks between the US and the Taliban facilitated by Islamabad to end the brutal war in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan – we’ll be meeting with Pakistan. I think our relationship right now is very good with Pakistan,” Trump said at the end of a White House media interaction when a journalist asked him to comment on the current situation between India and Pakistan.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is spearheading efforts to strike a peace deal with the Taliban with the help of Pakistan.
Khalilzad, the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said that Pakistan has an important role to play in Afghan peace talks and cannot be under estimated.
The representatives of the Afghan Taliban, the US as well as officials from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been meeting in Doha, Qatar. The talks were facilitated by Islamabad as Washington continues to seek an end to the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan that has killed over 2,000 US soldiers.