BRUSSELS – NATO on Tuesday invited Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to the alliance's summit in Chicago, after signs that the country could be moving to reopen its Afghan border to NATO military supplies.
Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said Pakistan was being invited to the May 20-21 summit along with a number of other non-NATO nations. These include countries that contribute to the NATO-led force, nations from the region, as well as Japan and several international organizations. About 60 countries and organizations are expected to be represented.
"This meeting will underline the strong commitment of the international community to the people of Afghanistan and to its future," Lungescu said. "Pakistan has an important role to play in that future."
In Islamabad, a spokesman for Pakistan's president said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen phoned Zardari on Tuesday to invite him to the meeting. The spokesman said Zardari would consider the invitation, which he said was not linked to any reopening of the supply lines.
The supply route through Pakistan has been closed for nearly six months in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops. This forced NATO to reorient its entire logistics chain to more expensive routes across Russia and Central Asia.
The routes through Pakistan are seen as vital as NATO begins to pull out of Afghanistan.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Monday that Islamabad had made the right decision to close the border but the situation could now change.
"It was important to make a point. Pakistan has made a point and now we can move on," Khar said at a news conference in Islamabad when asked whether she believed Pakistan should reopen the supply route.
But officials noted that despite the positive signals, the supply routes have not yet been restored. A NATO diplomat speaking on usual condition of anonymity said the invitation to Zardari was meant as an inducement to the government in Islamabad to reopen the borders.
In Kabul, Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister Jawed Ludin said there are "some positive signs from Pakistan."
"It may be resolved today or tomorrow, but as it stands, it's still unresolved," Ludin told reporters on Tuesday.
Associated Press correspondent Deb Riechmann in Kabul and Chris Brummitt in Islamabad contributed to this report.