US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and assured him of his continued support for the people of Pakistan as they recover from the recent devastating floods, said a statement issued in Washington on Tuesday.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Secretary Blinken and FM Bilawal “shared their mutual hope for a productive International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in January and discussed the need for close coordination”.

The secretary offered condolences for lives lost in recent terrorist attacks and underscored the US resolute support for Pakistan as it combats terrorism, the statement added.

The foreign minister is currently visiting Washington on the second leg of his weeklong visit to the US. He arrived in New York on Dec 13 and reached Washington on Monday after attending a special session of G77 countries and holding bilateral meetings with the UN chief and other dignitaries. The US State Department offered unconditional support to Pakistan in its battle against the TTP and similar groups, saying that defeating terrorism was a shared goal of both countries.

It also offered to assist India and Pakistan in resolving their differences, reminding them that they were key global partners and that America would like to continue ‘valuable partnerships’ with both.

But when asked if the US could also help resolve the Kashmir dispute, Mr Price said: “Our policy is that this is an issue that needs to be addressed by India and Pakistan. We are prepared to support if the parties want that, but this is a question for India and Pakistan to adjudicate.”

The foreign minister began his official engagements in Washington on Monday with an address to a conservative think-tank, the Heritage Foundation. He attended a community dinner at the Pakistani ambassador’s residence in the evening and addressed another think-tank, the Atlantic Council, on Tuesday.

He also met a number of US lawmakers during the last two days.

In an interview with Bloomberg published on Tuesday, Bilawal defended his recent remarks describing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as ‘the butcher of Gujarat’, saying he was referring to ‘a historical fact’, reported Dawn.

“I was referring to a historical reality. The remarks I used were not my own. I did not call […] I did not invent the term ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ for Mr Modi. The Muslims in India following the Gujarat riots used that term for Mr Modi.”

“It’s been two days since my remark — a member of Mr Modi’s party has announced a 20 million rupee bounty on my head. So, I don’t think the best way to disprove the fact that Mr Modi is the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ is to adopt such extreme steps,” he said.

“It is an extreme reaction and underlines and reinforces the points I made at the UN,” he said.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s remarks evoked strong reaction from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who staged protests across the country, including outside the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.


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