Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday reacted strongly to US defence secretary Leon Panetta's remarks questioning its actions in tackling terrorism, saying the sharp comments only added an "unhelpful twist" in the already oxygen-starved ties.
Pakistan's ambassador to the US sherry Rehman said the remarks have further reduced the space for narrowing bilateral differences, that have been hit by a series of conflagrations in the recent past.
‘This kind of public messaging from a senior member of the US administration is taken very seriously in Pakistan, and reduces the space for narrowing our bilateral differences at a critical time in the negotiations,’ Rehman said in a statement.
‘It adds an unhelpful twist to the process and leaves little oxygen for those of us seeking to break a stalemate,’ she said.
Panetta had said in Kabul on Thursday that the US was losing patience with Pakistan on the issue of militant safe havens on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan.
Panetta's remarks on the need for Pakistan to do more to tackle militancy and extremism, made during a visit to India and Afghanistan, have irked the Pakistan government.
While in New Delhi, Panetta said the US would continue drone strikes against militants in Pakistan's tribal belt despite protests from Islamabad that the attacks violate its sovereignty.
Panetta's remarks came at a time when the two countries are set to resume key negotiations on ending a six-month blockade of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.
Pakistan closed the supply lines after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 of its soldiers in November.