- Associated Press - Sunday, February 13, 2011

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan‘s standoff with Washington over a jailed U.S. Embassy worker will not thwart talks between the two countries and Afghanistan, a Pakistani government spokesman said Sunday.

Tensions between the United States and Pakistan have been rising over the detention of American Raymond Allen Davis for killing two Pakistani men he says were trying to rob him.

In an apparent step to show its displeasure, the United States on Saturday postponed a meeting with Pakistani and Afghan officials to discuss the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan prizes such gatherings as a way to assert influence in Afghanistan.

The meeting was to have taken place next week. The United States did not directly cite Mr. Davis‘ continued detention as the reason, but U.S. diplomats have said the talks could become a casualty of the dispute.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said he is confident the three-way talks will continue.

“The trilateral talks will be rescheduled in due course of time,” Mr. Basit said. “It is important the trilateral process continues. We hope whenever held, (talks) will yield maximum results for peace and stability.”

He declined comment on what the escalating diplomatic spat means for the Davis case or for relations with the United States.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States hopes to reschedule the meeting soon.

Police in Pakistan have accused Mr. Davis of “cold-blooded murder.” Mr. Davis claims he shot the men in self-defense when they tried to rob him at gunpoint in the eastern city of Lahore. The United States insists he has diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

Pakistani officials, fearful of a backlash in a population where anti-American fervor is widespread, have referred the case to the courts. Police are pushing for murder charges against the 36-year-old Mr. Davis, a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was foreign minister until a Cabinet reshuffle three days ago, said that his stance had been that Mr. Davis did not qualify for diplomatic immunity. It was not clear whether Mr. Qureshi’s dismissal was related to his stance. A new foreign minister has not been named.

Pakistan‘s foreign secretary, the current top official in the ministry, has said that any U.S. pressure on Islamabad to release Mr. Davis will be “counterproductive.”

Pakistan is considered a key to U.S. success in neighboring Afghanistan, making it difficult for Washington to sever ties. Pakistan relies on U.S. aid and protection, but the government seems paralyzed in the face of public outrage over the shootings.

On Sunday, the Pakistani Taliban threatened to attack any government official involved in Mr. Davis‘ eventual release.

“Whether he is a judge, police, lawyer, army, police maker or a politician, we will target him. We will kill him,” spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan told the AP by phone.

Associated Press writer Rasool Dawar contributed to this report from Peshawar, Pakistan.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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