Obama telephones Pakistan's PM Sharif to discuss evolving situation in region

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - US President Barack Obama telephoned Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to discuss the "evolving situation" in the region, the Pakistani foreign ministry said.

"Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed satisfaction at the direction of Pakistan-US relations which were on an upward trajectory" and "President Obama noted Pakistan-US relations were strong and robust" during their conversation on Friday evening, the ministry said in a statement.

Obama informed Sharif of his forthcoming trip to India and said he would visit Pakistan as soon as the situation normalises in the country, the ministry said, following Sharif's earlier invitation to the president.

Sharif referred to his visit to India earlier this year, which was aimed at taking Pakistan-India relations forward.

However, "subsequent unfortunate steps on India's part, including cancellation of foreign secretary level talks and the unprovoked firing across the Line of Control/Working Boundary (in Kashmir) resulting in civilian casualties, indicated that India was averse to normalisation of relations with Pakistan", the statement quoted Sharif as saying.

He said "while we remain open to the resumption of bilateral dialogue, the onus is on India to create a conducive environment in this regard."

Recent exchanges of fire across the de facto border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, which both countries administer in part but claim in full, have killed at least 20 civilians and forced thousands to flee their homes.

The nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought two wars over Muslim-majority Kashmir, have traded blame for the upsurge in firing and shelling which started on Oct 6.

India called off peace talks in August after Pakistan first consulted Kashmiri separatists, a move some saw as a sign of a tougher stance by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new right-wing government.

"The two leaders agreed to stay engaged to further strengthen Pakistan-US relations in their common desire to promote peace and prosperity in South Asia," the ministry statement said.