–Antonio Guterres says Pakistan is among countries most affected by climate change, urges world leaders for countermeasures
–UN secretary general lauds Pakistan’s hospitality for Afghan refugees and stresses need for political solution for lasting regional peace
ISLAMABAD: United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Sunday urged both Pakistan and India to de-escalate both militarily and verbally.
Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Guterres said that he was deeply concerned by the situation in occupied Kashmir and the persistent tensions along the Line of Control (LoC). He added that he has repeatedly stressed the importance of exercising maximum restraint.
“Diplomacy and dialogue remain the only tools that guarantee peace and stability with solutions in accordance with the Charter of UN and resolutions of the Security Council,” he said, adding that he has repeatedly “reiterated his offer to exercise my good offices should both sides ask”.
He also lauded Pakistan’s contributions to UN peacekeeping efforts as well as the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor, which was held last year. Calling the Kartarpur initiative a “symbol of interfaith harmony, a unique experiment in cross-border ties”, the UN chief said that the opening of the corridor showed “Pakistan’s commitment to peace”.
He said that Pakistan is a responsible member of the UN and it will be fully supported in dispensing its responsibilities.
The UN chief said that his visit to Pakistan is to acknowledge the great generosity and hospitality that Pakistan extended to Afghan refugees for over forty years, despite its limited resources and challenges.
Hailing the contributions of Pakistan in UN peacekeeping operations around the world, he said that Pakistani men and women are serving with full dedication and commitment to promoting the values of the UN.
He said that he also discussed a number of issues, including on regional security with FM Qureshi.
The UN secretary general said that Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism are commendable and very successful. He said due to these efforts, now Islamabad has become a safe family station for UN staff.
Speaking about the Afghan situation, he said that political solution and a permanent ceasefire are the only way forward to durable peace in Afghanistan which will foster the repatriation process of Afghan refugees. He urged Pakistan to continue playing its pivotal role in sustainable peace in the neighboring country.
In reply to a question, he said that there is a need to fight Islamophobia strongly. He said that hate speeches are the main cause of Islamophobia and the UN is committed to fighting against all forms of populism that contribute to such a narrative. He said that his visit to the Kartarpur corridor will be a symbol of dialogue and tolerance.
On his turn, FM Qureshi said that he had a very fruitful meeting with the UN secretary general in which we discussed a host of issues. He said that there is a need to agree on a time-bound roadmap for repatriation of Afghan refugees, supported by the international community. He also said that Pakistan has always supported peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan as it believes that peace in the neighboring country will improve regional stability.
FM Qureshi said that Pakistan is a responsible member of the UN and there is a lot of two-way cooperation between the two. He said that Pakistan is committed to the principles and values of the UN charter. He added that Pakistan supports multilateralism instead of unilateralism.
The foreign minister said that one example of unilateralism is the illegal act of August 5, 2019, by India. He said that Pakistan has conveyed to the general secretary about the challenging situation arising out of this unilateral act. He also said that all shades of Kashmiri opinion have rejected that action. “We also discussed increased ceasefire violations after the August 5,” he added.
FM Qureshi said that more than 200 days have passed since the siege and lockdown of eight million Kashmiris and compromising of fundamental freedoms in the held territory. He said UN secretary general is the custodian of UN charter and for this responsibility, Pakistan has some expectations from him. He urged the UN chief to reaffirm the biding nature of the Security Council’s resolutions, besides highlighting the restoration of fundamental rights and freedom of movement and urging India to respect the 2003 ceasefire violations agreement.
The foreign minister said he has also asked the UN Chief to ensure freedom of movement of UNMOGIP to fulfil its mandate on the Indian side, just like it enjoys in the Pakistani area.
Earlier, while responding to a question during a conference on climate change, the UN chief stressed that human rights must be respected in occupied Kashmir and advocated the need for enhanced dialogue between Pakistan and India.
He said that he has been expressing very clearly the absolute need for human rights to be fully respected in occupied Kashmir. He also said that two reports presented by the UNHCR on the situation show a solid contribution to that and those reports are very important in clarifying the situation. He added that the UN’s strong commitment is clear that human rights must be respected anywhere in the world.
He further said that his good offices, which he has offered more than once for the resolution of bilateral disputes, can be accepted if both countries agree to it.
While addressing the conference on climate change, he underlined the need to step up actions to achieve goals of climate change and sustainable development. Goals of global peace and prosperity are linked with the alleviation of poverty, inequality and hunger, he added.
The UN chief also appreciated steps taken by the incumbent government to address the negative impacts of climate change in Pakistan.
In her address, Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said that the government has taken concrete measures to address the challenges of climate change.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said that Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country, which suffers the most from climate-related disasters in the long-term.
He said that the incumbent government has zero-tolerance policy against timber mafia involved in illegal deforestation and massive cutting down of trees in the country.
The adviser said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (TPI) government launched the Billion Tree Tsunami project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to address threats and challenges of climate change.
He said that the government recently approved an ambitious electric vehicle policy, with an objective to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
The adviser said that the government increased 16 per cent budget for development projects related to environment and climate change.
Earlier in the day, a delegation of Afghan refugees called on the UN chief in Islamabad. They discussed matters pertaining to the rehabilitation of refugees.
Speaking on the occasion, the UN Chief said that Pakistan is one of the largest refugee-hosting nations in the world.
He said that overall 2.7 million refugees are residing in Pakistan with 2.4 million registered refugees affected by the Afghan war.
He expressed gratitude to people and the Pakistani government for their heartfelt hospitality.
Representatives from Afghanistan, Yemen and Tajikistan were part of the delegation.
The UN secretary general arrived in Islamabad to attend an international conference on Afghan refugees. On arrival at the Nur Khan Airbase, he was received by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Munir Akram and senior officers of the Foreign Office (FO) and the UN in Pakistan.
During his four-day stay, the UN chief will call on President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan. During these meetings, Pakistan’s perspective on all aspects of the Kashmir dispute will be shared with the UN secretary general.
His other engagements include interactions with parliamentarians, media and the youth. He will deliver special talks on themes of sustainable development, climate change and peacekeeping. He will also pay a visit to Lahore and will travel to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
Earlier, on his way to Pakistan, the UN chief tweeted that Pakistan is one of the most consistent and reliable contributors to the UN peacekeeping efforts around the world.
Lauding Pakistan’s contribution to worldwide peacekeeping efforts, Guterres said that he is visiting the country to express his gratitude to the people.