February 27, 2018 / 12:28 PM / 6 months ago

Amid tensions, Trump aide says U.S. seeking 'new relationship' with Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A senior aide to U.S. President Donald Trump said during a visit to Pakistan that Washington wants a “new relationship” with Islamabad, the U.S. embassy said on Tuesday, amid worsening ties between the two nations.

Lisa Curtis, deputy assistant to the U.S. president, also voiced U.S. concerns about Pakistan’s “deficiencies” in preventing terrorist-financing during her two-day trip to the nuclear-armed South Asian nation.

Relations between the allies plummeted again last week when Washington persuaded member states of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to put Pakistan back on the watchlist of nations with inadequate terrorist financing or money laundering controls.

The U.S. move infuriated Islamabad amid fears it could hurt the fragile economy of Pakistan, whose de facto finance minister accused Washington of trying to “embarrass” his country.

“Ms. Curtis said that the United States seeks to move toward a new relationship with Pakistan, based on a shared commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability,” the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

This new relationship would also be based on a “shared vision of a peaceful future for Afghanistan”, the embassy added.

Tensions with historic ally Washington have pushed Pakistan further into the arms of China, officials and analysts say. Closer diplomatic and military ties between Beijing and Islamabad have come at a time when China is helping Pakistan’s economy grow by investing billions in infrastructure projects.

The United States and Pakistan have clashed over militants waging war in Afghanistan, with Washington accusing Islamabad of providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban and their affiliate, the Haqqani network. Pakistan denies helping the militants, saying the Islamist fighters are mostly across the border.

“Ms. Curtis urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory,” the embassy added.

The Trump administration suspended about $2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan in January, days after Trump tweeted that Pakistan has given nothing but “lies and deceit” in return for generous aid.

Islamabad responded that it doesn’t need Washington’s money but wants, instead, respect for the vast sacrifices it has made in the war on terror.

Curtis, who is also the U.S. National Security Council’s senior director for South and Central Asia, also raised Washington’s worries about gaps in Pakistan’s anti-terrorist financing controls, a frequent criticism by Western powers who say not enough is done to curb fund-raising by militants.

The U.S. motion to place Pakistan on the FATF “grey list” of nations with weak terrorist-financing controls was co-sponsored by Britain, Germany and France. Only Turkey opposed the U.S. motion at a Paris meeting of nearly 40 member states.

Reporting by Drazen Jorgic

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