Washington/Islamabad: Ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to Moscow, the US has communicated its position to Islamabad on Russia’s “renewed invasion” of Ukraine, according to a senior state department official who emphasising that it was the “responsibility” of every country to voice objection to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions.
US Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price said this while responding to a question during a briefing on Wednesday about how Washington saw Prime Minister Khan’s visit to Moscow amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which has since escalated to an armed conflict.
“Well, we’re certainly aware of the trip,” Price said.
“We’ve communicated to Pakistan our position regarding Russia’s further renewed invasion of Ukraine, and we have briefed them on our efforts to pursue diplomacy over war,” Price said.
Khan arrived in Russia late on Wednesday on a two-day visit, the highlight of which would be his meeting with President Putin.
Khan’s trip to meet Putin and discuss issues including economic cooperation came hours after a number of Western nations hit Russia with new sanctions for its military deployment into parts of eastern Ukraine.
Khan was expected to push for the construction of a long-delayed, multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline to be built in collaboration with Russian companies, the Pakistani media reported.
During a briefing, Price was also asked by a reporter what the state department’s assessment was of the timing of Khan’s visit to Russia.
Price said the US was “certainly aware” of Khan’s trip to Moscow.
“We believe it’s the responsibility of every responsible country around the world to voice concern, to voice objection to what Putin appears to have in mind for Ukraine,” he said.
Price said the US viewed its longstanding partnership and cooperation with Pakistan as critical to America’s interests.
“We certainly hope, when it comes to those shared interests the aversion of a costly conflict, the aversion of a destabilising conflict, that every country around the world would make that point clearly in unambiguous language in their engagements with the Russian Federation,” he added.
When asked whether the US believed Prime Minister Khan’s visit was an “indirect endorsement” of President Putin, Price said the reporter would have to ask the Pakistani government what its intent was.
“I’m just not in a position to offer an assessment on the timing of foreign counterparts’ travel to another country,” Price said.
In an interview to Russia’s state-run RT television network ahead of his trip, Khan, 69, had voiced concern about the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of new sanctions and their impact on Islamabad’s growing cooperation with Moscow.
Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, is the first Pakistani premier to visit Russia in 23 years after former premier Nawaz Sharif travelled to Moscow in 1999.
Pakistan’s ties with Russia have moved past the bitter Cold War hostilities in recent years and the chill in the relations between Pakistan and the US has further pushed the country towards Russia and China.
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