ISLAMABAD - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, said Thursday that the countries will resume high-level talks over security issues, and Kerry suggested that disputed drone strikes may end soon.
Kerry also said he had invited Pakistan's newly elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to come to Washington to meet with President Obama.
"I'm pleased to announce that today, very quickly, we were able to agree to a resumption of the strategic dialogue in order to foster a deeper, broader and more comprehensive partnership between our countries," Kerry said at a news conference with Aziz in Islamabad.
He said the talks will cover "all of the key issues between us, from border management to counterterrorism to promoting U.S. private investment and to Pakistan's own journey to economic revitalization."
Kerry told Pakistani TV that the U.S. would end strikes on Pakistan in the near future.
"I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it," he said.
"I think the president has a very real timeline, and we hope it's going to be very, very soon."
The comments reflected similar statements Obama made in a foreign policy speech earlier this year.
"As we continue the transition in Afghanistan, we will no longer have the same need for force protection in the Afghan war theater, and the progress we've made against core al-Qaida will reduce the need for unmanned strikes," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, noting there was "no exact timeline."
The U.S. and Pakistan launched high-level talks on a wide swath of security and development programs in 2010. But the talks stalled in November 2011 after U.S. airstrikes on a Pakistani post on the Afghan border accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Even before that, the bilateral relationship was severely damaged by a variety of incidents.
The resumption of the strategic dialogue indicates that the relationship between the two countries has improved since that low point. But there is still significant tension and mistrust, especially regarding U.S. drone strikes and Pakistan's alleged ties with Taliban militants using its territory to launch cross-border attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
"It is also no secret that along this journey in the last few years we've experienced a few differences," Kerry said. "I think we came here today, both the prime minister and myself, with a commitment that we cannot allow events that might divide us in a small way to distract from the common values and the common interests that unite us in big ways."
Kerry was also asked about progress on a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan that would keep some U.S. forces in that country after 2014.
"I am personally confident that we will have an agreement, and the agreement will be timely," he replied.