Millennium Post

For a week in US, Pak PM’s top aide still to meet Trump team

Pakistan prime minister’s top foreign policy aide Tariq Fatemi, who has been in the US for a week for ‘familiarisation meetings’ with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, is yet to meet anyone from the incoming administration, a media report said on Sunday.

Fatemi, special assistant on foreign affairs to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, however, has held meetings with senior officials of the outgoing Obama administration and US lawmakers and is hoping to meet some members of the incoming Trump administration early this week, Dawn newspaper reported. Such meetings are highlighted in press releases issued by the Pakistan embassy, which claims that these talks have helped create a better understanding of Pakistan s position on various issues, it said. 

So far the only comment from the US side came from the State Department’s deputy spokesman Mark Toner who said that US officials did discuss “a range of bilateral and regional” issues with Fatemi and these included “regional stability and counter-terrorism cooperation”.But he did not say if the meetings helped resolve the differences that have strained Pakistan’s relations with the United States, the report said.

Neither the Pakistan embassy nor the Trump team have said anything about Fatemi’s meetings/probable meetings with the officials of the incoming administration, it said. Earlier this week, Fatemi visited New York, from where US President-elect Trump is conducting his business, but Pakistani diplomats said he was only there to meet senior UN officials and returned to Washington the same day.

A senior Pakistani diplomat, when asked why Fatemi had not yet met members of the Trump team, was quoted by the paper as saying that “protocol did not allow him to meet them in his official capacity” but he and the embassy were trying to arrange some informal meetings.

One such meeting, with Stephen Hadley, the former Bush administration’s national security adviser, may happen this week, the report said. The embassy official claimed that Fatemi has also been “very active on telephone,” speaking to the Trump team. 

“We are reaching out to the ‘influentials’ not ‘probables,’ the paper quoted the official as saying while explaining why Fatemi had not yet met Trump officials although he has been in the US for almost a week now. “We are trying to meet the people who have influence and are feeding into the transition process,” the official said. While the Pakistan embassy insists that it would not be appropriate for Fatemi to hold formal meetings with officials who are not in the government yet, officials from other countries are doing exactly that, the paper noted.

Senior officials and leaders from across the globe are visiting New York for meeting Trump officials, it said. The embassy’s informal, and formal, contacts with the Trump team did help them in arranging Prime Minister Sharif’s telephone call with Trump last week. But that call too became controversial when Sharif’s office released readout of that call, the report said. Fatemi, however, told a news briefing in Washington last Monday that Trump’s office had approved the readout and had also allowed them to release it to the media.

“That is the language that the president-elect used. And it was a very honest and truthful narrative, which we put out with the approval of his office,” he was quoted saying. 
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