President Obama has said that Pakistan is the key to the future of Afghanistan and the region—just as US-Pakistan relations appear to be deteriorating. Obama is now refusing to meet with President Asif Ali Zardari at the NATO summit in Chicago, reports the Guardian. For Obama, the most important issue is re-opening Pakistan transport routes to Afghanistan, which Pakistan closed after last November's errant airstrikes that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan is insisting on an apology and a review of US drone policy before supply routes can be re-opened.
Snubbed by Obama, Zardari had to settle with meeting Hillary Clinton, telling her that Pakistan wants "to find a permanent solution to the drone issue as it not only violated our sovereignty but also inflamed public sentiments due to innocent civilian casualties." A White House spokesman denied that Obama snubbed Zardari, emphasizing that issues such as supply routes are usually handled by "working-level negotiating teams," not presidents. "It's important for Pakistan to be here because as we contemplate the future of the region, they are obviously going to be a part of that picture," said the spokesman.