The Boston Globe is reporting tonight that Senator John Kerry left tonight “for an emergency trip to Pakistan to try to repair deteriorating relations in the wake of the arrest of a US embassy worker who shot two Pakistani motorcyclists dead, according to committee staff.”
Since becoming the Chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Kerry has traveled to Pakistan 4 times maintaining a close relationship with Pakistani leaders. This visit however, is different:
The trip, which a senior US official said Kerry took at the request of the Obama administration, is the latest twist in the saga of Raymond Davis, who shot two men dead in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on January 27. Davis told Pakistani police he believed they were trying to carjack him, but a Pakistani court has held him on suspicion of murder near term.
The senior US official who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of the case, said that Kerry is not trying to secure the release of Davis, whom Pakistani officials have indicated will remain in custody for the 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 that he does not qualify, fueling rumors in the Pakistani press that Davis is a spy.
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 that Pakistan also support its own networks of militants.
This is one to stay tuned to…
UPDATE: ABC’s The Note has more:
The U.S. was scheduled to host a trilateral meeting in Washington with Afghanistan and Pakistan at the end of February, but the meeting was canceled after Pakistan resisted U.S. demands to release Davis immediately. Pakistan is charging Davis with murder, but U.S. officials argue that Davis was in Pakistan under a diplomatic visa and has diplomatic immunity from prosecution in a host country. The senator is traveling on behalf of the Obama administration.
“Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry left tonight for Pakistan where he will meet with senior Pakistan government officials to reaffirm support for the strategic relationship between the two countries,” Jones said.
UPDATE 2: MSNBC reports on a possible prisoner swap for Raymond Davis with Aafia Siddiqui, 38, who is serving an 86-year sentence in the U.S..
With this news of a possible prisonser swap, Kerry’s emergency trip to Pakistan takes on a few new twists including this from Reuters: the Pakistani Taliban is warning the Pakistani government not to release Davis.