WASHINGTON - Expressing "grave concern" over the killings of anti-India protesters in Indian occupied Kashmir, the United States has said that it is holding discussions with both India and Pakistan aimed at a peaceful resolution of the deteriorating situation there.

“We are very concerned about the deaths of the protesters. I understand it’s over 30 now; that’s of grave concern to us. We continue to be in touch with the Government of India. We’ve been in discussions with the government of Pakistan as well,” State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said in response to a series of questions on the US response to the heightening tensions in the region.

Closely questioned by an American correspondent at the daily Press briefing on Thursday, she said the US has had discussions with both India and Pakistan on a range of issues, including Kashmir,

But, despite pointed questions, she avoided condemning the killings of civilian protesters by Indian security forces in the strife-torn Indian Occupied Kashmir where the death toll now stands at over 40.

QUESTION: There’s also been the question raised of why you’ve said that you’re concerned about the violence but you haven’t condemned the deaths of civilians -

MS TRUDEAU: So we are very concerned about the deaths of the protesters. I understand it’s over 30 now; that’s of grave concern to us. We continue to be in touch with the Government of India. We’ve been in discussions with the Government of Pakistan as well.

QUESTION: Okay. But is this something that the United States would condemn?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, we’d encourage all sides to make efforts to finding a peaceful resolution. The situation on the ground from what we understand is very complex, it remains fluid. In terms of clarity on what’s going on, in terms of the protests as well as the security force reaction, we’re still trying to get it.

QUESTION: All right. And then – but just in terms of this being an internal matter for India, while it may be taking place on territory that India claims or administers --

MS TRUDEAU: Exactly.

QUESTION: Do you – I mean, does that absolve it of any kind of criticism for any abuses that may take place?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, as we said and as both (John) Kirby (the chief spokesman) and (Mark) Toner (the Deputy Spokesman) did say, we’re very concerned about this latest outbreak of violence on that.

At the same time, Ms. Trudeau urged Pakistan to take action against all terrorist groups operating from its soil.

“We have also been very clear with the government of Pakistan that they must target and root out these extremist groups, all militant groups and Taliban,” she said.

The ongoing protest demonstration across Indian Occupied Kashmir were sparked off last Friday when Indian troops killed Kashmiri youth leader, Burhan Wani.

“We would encourage all sides to make efforts to finding a peaceful resolution. The situation on the ground from what we understand is very complex, it remains fluid. In terms of clarity on what’s going on, in terms of the protests as well as the security force reaction, we’re still trying to get it,” she said.

The State Department spokesperson also said the US remains concerned over the activities of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed.

“We have seen the statements. We remain concerned about his activities. He’s listed by UN Security Council 1267 al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. He is also on the Rewards for Justice Programme. Both LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) and Saeed are designated by the US government [as terrorists],” she said.

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