Pakistan-Israel Relations: Differences on how to tackle Iran?

Barak insisted on meeting Musharraf in Paris
By Qudssia Akhlaque, The News, February 11, 2008

ISLAMABAD: On repeated requests from the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak President Musharraf had a meeting with him last month in his Presidential suite at Hotel Raphael in Paris where both the dignitaries were staying, The News has learnt through sources close to both the camps.

The meeting took place shortly before President Musharraf left for the airport to depart for Davos.

According to Pakistani sources, the meeting went on for about 30 minutes. However, the Israeli Defence Ministry spokeswoman is reported to have said that the two talked for about an hour.

The meeting took place a day after Musharraf and Barak ran into each other in the hotel lobby. Barak was staying on the seventh floor of Hotel Raphael and President Musharraf on the eighth floor. Reportedly, Barak bumped into Musharraf as the latter entered the hotel on January 22. On spotting the Pakistani president, the Israeli defence minister immediately reached out to Musharraf for a handshake and greeted him. Musharraf reciprocated and Barak inquired about the president’s well-being. It was a very brief exchange.

Subsequently Barak sent several messages to the Pakistani camp requesting a meeting with President Musharraf. Finally, shortly before President Musharraf’s departure for the airport Barak came to the president’s suite to see him. The president’s military secretary was present throughout the Musharraf-Barak meeting, described by an insider as a “one-off”.

During the meeting the Israeli defence minister offered his condolences for the death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Barak, according to sources privy to the meeting, expressed his concern over terrorists’ ability to strike such a prominent leader. The Israeli minister like others foreign leaders voiced concern about terrorism in Pakistan and its likely effect on Pakistan’s stability.

The Israeli standard worry regarding the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons against the backdrop of growing terrorist threat in the country was expressed. The president dismissed the concern given Pakistan’s foolproof security system safeguarding its nuclear programme.

Apparently there was talk about Iran’s nuclear issue. The president yet again articulated Pakistan’s stance that the only way forward on the Iranian nuclear question was through negotiations in line with the international law and in-keeping with Iran’s genuine security and development needs. To promote purposeful negotiations, Musharraf underscored the necessity to use the good offices of countries in the European bloc besides Russia and China, which enjoy Iranian goodwill.

The Pakistani president emphatically stated that use of force was unacceptable for Pakistan and would be counterproductive. Interestingly, despite the fact that Pakistani position on Tehran’s nuclear programme has always been in keeping with the international law and Iranian interest, after the Musharraf-Barak meeting, reportedly editorials in government controlled Iranian papers made baseless claims that President Musharraf assured the Israeli defence minister that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was not targeted at Israel. According to insiders, the issue was not even raised at the Musharraf-Barak meeting.

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