US, Pakistan close to supply route deal
Agreement would reopen crossings into Afghanistan
The U.S. and Pakistan are "moving closer" to an agreement on re-opening border crossings into Afghanistan for NATO supplies, a senior U.S. official said.
The official, who is not authorized to speak publicly about sensitive negotiations, says representatives from the two nations discussed the re-opening of ground supply routes into Afghanistan during meetings this weekend that included Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
A senior Pakistani government official also said an agreement is expected soon to reopen the supply routes. The official, familiar with the Pakistan-U.S. discussions, said the movement comes as a result of the recent talks.
The Pakistani official said the country's Defense Committee of Cabinet, a group of top civilian and military leadership, will be held in the next few days to finalize the deal.
The official didn't share the details of the expected deal.
ISAF commander Gen. John Allen had "a productive meeting" with his counterparts in Pakistan, the senior U.S. official said. He was joined by Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides for the talks, which have concluded, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
Nuland told reporters at the State Department on Monday that no deal has been reached yet.
"We've been working through a range of issues with Pakistan over the past few months including towards working on reopening" the border crossings, Nuland said.
"That work continues -- we don't have anything in particular to announce today," Nuland said.
A U.S. defense official also sounded a note of caution saying no deal was done.
The talks have been stuck on two key issues -- Pakistan's demand to charge more per container shipped across its border, and Pakistan's demand the United States apologize for a friendly-fire incident last November, in which coalition forces killed 24 Pakistani Army soldiers at a checkpoint.
The senior U.S. official told CNN the payment issue "had been successfully negotiated to a resolution, for all intents and purposes."
There has been "some movement on our (the U.S.) side to possibly go beyond some of the previous statements" regarding the shooting, the official said, as well as some "flexibility from our Pakistani partners."
The United States has never gone as far as giving an unconditional apology for the incident. The official cautioned that "nothing is set in stone yet" and there is no official agreement to re-open the supply routes.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta indicated recently the U.S. was not amenable to an apology.
"We've made clear what our position is, and I think it's time to move on," Panetta said in an interview with Reuters in June.
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