ISLAMABAD  -  US Secretary of State broke the diplomatic protocol if he ‘officially’ discussed anti-terror actions with Prime Minister Imran Khan, diplomats said Friday.

Senior diplomats at the foreign ministry told The Nation that only ‘equal status’ officials could discuss bilateral issues which could be officially released to media. “Otherwise, discussions are not considered official unless these involve message from someone who is equal in status to the host,” one diplomat said. He added: “Even if Pompeo discussed something with PM Imran Khan, he should not have released a statement on the contents of the conversation.”

The diplomat said that Pompeo should apologise for the mistake as only a president or a prime minister could directly discuss bilateral issues over telephone.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi earlier said that Pakistan had conveyed its annoyance to the US on the issue. “They have spoken about the terrorists operating inside Pakistan in their statement. We have contacted them on this to correct the position,” he said as he hoped to have positive dialogue with Secretary Pompeo in his September 5 visit to Pakistan.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammed Faisal also rejected the US State Department’s readout about the call between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as ‘factually incorrect’.

In a statement, Dr Faisal said: “Pakistan takes exception to the factually-incorrect statement issued by US State Department on today’s phone call between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”

The statement issued by the State Department said: “Secretary Pompeo raised importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting Afghan peace process.”

Also, Prime Minister Imran Khan made his maiden visit to the Foreign Office in Islamabad to give policy guidelines. FO authorities gave a detailed briefing to PM Khan over foreign policy of the country, and relations with several countries including US and India, global and regional issues. The prime minister provided guidelines to the FO authorities on foreign policy of the country. He maintained that Pakistan wanted relationship with all the countries at the level of equality. The PM stressed that foreign policy should be independent and as per the public aspirations.

He directed to highlight the stance of Pakistan on international levels for which the embassies had to play a much active role.

Later, the outgoing US Ambassador in Pakistan, David Hale, paid a farewell call on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The foreign minister underscored importance of the longstanding relations with the US and said that he looked forward to welcome Secretary Pompeo in Islamabad. He told Ambassador Hale that his interactions with the US leadership would be based on honesty and sincerity to develop a sustained partnership in the interest of both countries.

Foreign Minister thanked Ambassador Hale for his services in Pakistan and congratulated him on his next assignment as Undersecretary for Political Affairs at the Department of State. He expressed the hope that as someone who understood Pakistan and the region would be able to play a positive role in strengthening bilateral relations and for peace and prosperity of the region.

Ambassador Hale thanked the foreign minister and said that there was great interest in the Prime Minister’s reform agenda in the United States, a readiness to turn the page, and this was the objective of Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Pakistan. Ambassador Hale acknowledged Foreign Minister’s role in shepherding bilateral relations in his earlier tenure and thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the cordiality and cooperation extended to him during his assignment in Pakistan.