Islamabad

16 February 2020

Opening remarks to the press with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan

António Guterres

It is a pleasure to be back in Pakistan – a country deeply committed to multilateralism and the United Nations.

This is my first visit as Secretary-General of the United Nations, but as High Commissioner for Refugees, I had the opportunity – I was fortunate — to be able to visit this country several times.

And as I said this afternoon in the conference on sustainable development and climate change, what I’ve seen — the generosity and solidarity with the Afghan people — has created a love affair between the [Pakistani] people and myself.

I would like to thank the Government of Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan personally for inviting me, as well as Foreign Minister Qureshi for his strong support of the United Nations.

I have a full agenda, but there is a common thread to all my events and meetings here.

It is simply this: to recognize Pakistan’s outstanding generosity and solidarity over many decades and to highlight its place in confronting some of the biggest global challenges our world faces today.

I strongly believe it is time for the world to step back and look at Pakistan through a wider frame.

One of the main purposes of my visit is to spotlight the real Pakistan — with all its possibility and potential.

It is deeply rooted in Pakistani culture — from the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah … to the philosophy of Allama Iqbal … to the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

From the courageous example of Malala Yousafzai … to the giving spirit of Abdul Sattaar Edhi … to the visual artistry and advocacy of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

And, of course, on better days, we also see it from the bats of the Pakistan cricket team — both the men’s and women’s teams, I might add!

Here in Pakistan, we see solidarity in action.

Pakistan is today the world’s second largest host of refugees – and for decades, it was the first.

I look forward to taking part tomorrow in a conference marking Pakistan’s four decades of support for Afghan refugees.

For 40 years, despite Pakistan’s own challenges, Pakistan has sheltered and protected Afghan refugees with limited support from the international community.

I can testify to this. Having served as High Commissioner for Refugees, I always found in Pakistan a reliable and generous partner.

One can only imagine how much worse the plight of Afghans would be, and how much more unstable the region might be, without Pakistan’s stellar example of hospitality and compassion.

The United Nations will continue to support Pakistan, and I call on other countries to support Pakistan and indeed show similar leadership in sharing this responsibility in this region and around the world.

As we look to issues of peace and security, the United Nations is profoundly grateful for the dedication and commitment of Pakistan’s peacekeepers.

Pakistan has consistently been one of the world’s top contributors to UN peacekeeping, with more than 4,000 men and increasingly women serving today in nine missions around the globe.

I also appreciate the Government’s strong support for the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, and for its commitment to continue to improve the effectiveness of our operations.

Foreign Minister Qureshi and I discussed regional security in South Asia.

With respect to Jammu and Kashmir, I am grateful for the work of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. UNMOGIP will continue to monitor the ceasefire at the Line of Control in accordance with its mandate. And today I was happy I could inaugurate the new premises of their headquarters.

I am deeply concerned about the increase in tensions that we have witnessed last year.

I have repeatedly stressed the importance of exercising maximum restraint and taking steps to de-escalate, both militarily and verbally, while reiterating my offer to exercise my good offices, should both sides ask.

Diplomacy and dialogue remain the only tools that guarantee peace and stability, with solutions in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the resolutions of the Security Council.

Simultaneously, when we see situations of discontent and unrest, it is of utmost importance to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Turning now to Afghanistan, I am following closely the important efforts to bring peace to the country.

Achieving a comprehensive settlement to the conflict is essential for saving lives and advancing sustainable development.

It is my hope that discussions will be productive in leading to a reduction in violence, especially violence that harms civilians. Reducing violence is critical to build confidence and support for a peace process that leads to a lasting political settlement and a permanent ceasefire.

Such conditions would contribute to enabling the peaceful return of displaced persons and refugees to their homes.

I want to reaffirm that the preferred, durable solution for refugees has always been voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity to their country of origin. This is also true for Afghan refugees.

Through its support to the ongoing peace efforts and building the necessary regional consensus, Pakistan continues to play a crucial role in realizing this potentially historic opportunity for peace.

The United Nations remains committed to supporting an inclusive and Afghan-led peace process that upholds the human rights of all citizens and leads to a sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

During my visit to Pakistan, I also look forward to visiting the newly opened Kartarpur Corridor connecting two key Sikh pilgrimage sites.

This is a welcome symbol of interfaith harmony, a unique experiment in cross-border ties, showing Pakistan’s commitment to peace.

The climate crisis is another key challenge of common concern -- and once again, Pakistan is on the frontlines as one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet.

I welcome Pakistan’s ambition to take concrete action with the “ten billion tree tsunami” campaign and many other initiatives.

For my part, I will continue pressing for action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, which means to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

It means more ambition by all – more ambition on mitigation, adaptation, resilience and finance. Major emitting countries and industrial sectors have a particular responsibility to lead the way.

And it means a successful UN Climate Conference – COP26 – later this year in Glasgow and I count on Pakistan’s strong commitment to that.

Finally, I would like to recognize Pakistan’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world’s framework for eliminating poverty, achieving gender equality, protecting the environment and building a fair globalization that works for all.

Pakistan was in the global lead in integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into its own national development agenda.

This is yet another example of the commitment and vision that we need to see more of around the world. I look forward to the rest of my visit and engaging with the leadership and people of Pakistan.

The United Nations family is strongly committed to helping the country advance prosperity and peace for all.

Thank you.