President Obama will meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani next week during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul in what could be a significant warming of the chilled relations since two dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed in November in a cross-border raid by Afghanistan-based U.S. warplanes.
A White House statement Friday said Obama and Gilani would discuss reconciliation talks with Taliban insurgents and an endgame for the Afghan war.
Obama is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Sunday for a three-day visit to participate in the gathering of more than 50 world leaders who will assess international progress on securing the world’s loose nuclear materials. But the nuclear threat posed by North Korea is expected to dominate the proceedings.
The White House previously announced that Obama is hold bilateral meetings with China, Russia, South Korea, Turkey and Kazakhstan.The Gilani meeting was added to the president’s schedule Friday.
The president’s meeting with Gilani will come the day after the Pakistani parliament starts debate on new guidelines it has proposed for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, including an end to CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas and a tariff system to pay for cross-border shipment of U.S. war supplies that have been blocked since the November incident.
The administration hopes to modify both those proposals; an Obama-Gilani meeting may set a more friendly tone for follow-on discussions between the two governments.
Although Gilani and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari have visited Washington a number of times, Obama set aside a promise to travel to Pakistan last year as relations deteriorated.
Syria is also expected to be a major topic of discussion outside the nuclear conference hall in Seoul. Obama will meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose government has blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He is also expected to hold talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government will host a major international conference for the anti-Assad Friends of Syria on April 1. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to attend.