|Kerry will not seek to secure the release of US Embassy worker Raymond Davis, but will instead try to tone down rhetoric.|
Kerry sent to Pakistan to reaffirm ties
Looks to improve relations in wake of fatal shootings
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration dispatched Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to Pakistan last night to try to repair deteriorating relations after the arrest of a US Embassy worker who shot two Pakistani motorcyclists dead.
The urgently organized trip, confirmed by committee staff and a senior US official, is the latest twist in the saga of Raymond Davis, who killed two men in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Jan. 27. Davis told Pakistani police he believed they were trying to carjack him, but a Pakistani court has held him on suspicion of murder.
The senior US official, who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of the case, said that Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, is not trying to secure the release of Davis, who Pakistani officials have indicated will remain in custody for the near term. Instead, Kerry’s mission will be to “help tone down the rhetoric and reaffirm the US partnership with Pakistan.’’
The Pakistani government has refused to give Davis diplomatic immunity, saying he does not qualify, fueling rumors in the Pakistani press that Davis is a spy.
A senior Pakistani official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Kerry will travel first to Lahore to speak to local officials who arrested Davis, and then to Islamabad, where he will talk to senior officials of the federal government.
“The idea is to try to bring both countries back from inflammatory rhetoric,’’ the official said. “Kerry is a man with very high credibility in Pakistan.’’
Relations were already strained with Pakistan over stepped-up drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region and disagreements over the war in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan is a key ally in the war, but US officials allege the country also supports its own networks of militants.
Last week, US officials postponed a high-level meeting in Washington with Pakistani and Afghan officials that had been scheduled for Feb. 23, a move viewed in Pakistan as retaliation for Davis’s continued detention.
Kerry has developed closed relations with Pakistan leaders over the years and pushed through a $7.5 billion, five-year aid package for the country. He has traveled to Pakistan four times since he became chairman of the powerful foreign relations committee in early 2009.
The Obama administration has sent Kerry on delicate foreign policy missions in the past. In 2009, Kerry was sent to try to persuade Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept an international election commission’s vote count after a bitter presidential election. Last fall, he delivered messages to Sudanese leaders in the run-up to a tense referendum on independence for the south.
Farah Stockman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.