"We can confirm Secretary Kerry spoke (over phone) today with Prime Minister Sharif. They discussed a range of bilateral issues of importance to our relationship and the need to stay focused on the pressing challenge of terrorism in the region," State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

He was responding to questions on the telephonic conversation between Kerry and Sharif. This is the highest level talk between the leaders of the two countries in the aftermath of the terrorist attack at the Pathankot air force base on January 2 by six Pakistani terrorists.

A statement issued by the Pakistan PMO in Islamabad said that "Kerry extended full support to the Prime Minister to find out the truth in the Pathankot terror incident." Sharif told Kerry that "we are swiftly carrying out investigations in a transparent manner and will bring out the truth. The world will see our effectiveness and sincerity in this regard, the Prime Minister added," the statement said.

Kerry's call to Sharif came amid Indian intelligence reports suggesting that groups and people in Pakistan planned and executed the strike on the Pathankot air force base. India has provided "specific and actionable information in this regard" to Pakistan.

However, Pakistan has said it needed "concrete evidence" from India for acting against the terrorists suspected of being involved in the Pathankot strike instead of leads suggesting the attack was planned and directed from its soil. "The Secretary also reiterated our belief that it remains vital for India and Pakistan to continue working together for a more secure and prosperous region," Kirby said.

Kerry said the US hopes that talks between India and Pakistan will continue despite the fact that terrorists have tried to thwart it because "continuation of India-Pakistan talks is needed in the interest of regional stability and the leadership role by both the Prime Ministers is required to ensure continuous dialogue," said the statement.

Sharif said Pakistan would not allow anyone to use its soil to carry out terror operations abroad, it added. Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet this week as part of the revival of the peace process that was agreed upon by Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the latter made a surprise visit to Lahore on December 25 on his way back from Kabul to New Delhi.

Sharif's Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz yesterday said that Foreign Secretary-level talks are "intact" and Pakistan was following the leads provided by India which has linked the talks, scheduled for January 15, to Islamabad's decisive action on the Pathankot terror attack.

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