ISLAMABAD: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has offered to play a role to facilitate a dialogue between India and Pakistan.
In an exclusive interview with Pakistani media at the UN Headquarters, he welcomed the talks between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan and said he would be happy to play a role in facilitating a dialogue between the two sides. Ban expressed concern about civilian casualties caused by drone strikes and urged countries to abide by international humanitarian law.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q. Secretary General, you had called for talks between India and Pakistan recently. Are you satisfied with progress that has been made on that front? What is the UN position on Kashmir?
A. I am encouraged by the recent political move by the leaders of the two countries, Pakistan and India, to resolve all the pending issues through diplomatic dialogue. I visited Pakistan in August and I had a very good meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. I also met him during the General Assembly. I know that the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Prime Minister of India had a very good bilateral meeting on the margins of the General Assembly in New York. I hope all this kind of diplomatic consultations and dialogue will help resolve pending issues including the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Q. You had offered your services in resolving the Kashmir dispute. Do you see yourself and the UN playing a part in resolving the crisis?
A. I will first encourage the leaders of both countries to continue their dialogue and if there is an opportunity for the United Nations and myself as Secretary General to play any role to facilitate the dialogue, I will be very happy to do that. What is important is that at this time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have initiated their high-level dialogue. I hope this high-level dialogue will continue in the future.
Q. What is the UN position on talking to the Taliban?
A. We have been discussing this matter with Afghanistan’s leaders. We have been supporting and trying to facilitate this dialogue. This should be done by the Afghan government and the representatives of the Taliban. It is important that all this dialogue should lead to eventual permanent peace and security. The Afghan people have suffered too much due to lack of dialogue and due to violence.
Q. And your response to the Pakistani government considering speaking with the Taliban.
A. I know that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a good meeting in August in Islamabad. I have been urging the two leaders to strengthen their bilateral relations so they can address all their security issues including dialogue with the Taliban.
Q. What has the UN done to follow up condemnation of drone strikes in Pakistan?
A. This use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles known as UAVs is the subject of long-standing international law, including international humanitarian law. I am concerned whether one can ensure that the use of drones can guarantee the legitimate target, whether targeted persons are combatants or legitimate targets, according to relevant laws and regulations.
When it comes into the hands of non-state actors, because this technology is being used by many actors, it is very difficult to ensure that this will be used for a proper purpose. I hope that the countries that are using this technology make sure that there are no casualties on the part of the civilian population and its use should be regulated by international law.
Q. What is the UN position on Afghan refugees who are still in Pakistan?
A. I am very grateful to the Government of Pakistan for accommodating this many refugees (1.6 million). It must have been a big burden on the already stretched resources of the Pakistani government. I am also grateful that the Pakistani government has recently extended their right of stay beyond June this year. I hope the Pakistani government will continue to provide necessary humanitarian assistance to the Afghan refugees.
Q. Some have said that a US attack against Syria would be the final blow to the political role of the UN. Did the agreement between the US and Russia regarding Syrian chemical weapons therefore help save the UN’s political relevance?
A. There is no military solution between the two parties of Syria. That is what I have continuously been urging. They should lay down their arms and engage in a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned dialogue so that this crisis can be resolved harmoniously.
That is why I have been working very closely with key parties of the Security Council, particularly the US and Russia and other permanent members of the Security Council, to convene a Geneva-2 Conference. Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi is now visiting the countries in the region to consult with key parties. I sincerely hope we will be able to set a date and engage in dialogue.
The preliminary consultation among key parties will be held on November 5, as was announced. Brahimi will engage with key members of the Security Council. It is a very important one. Without a political solution we will see so many people tragically being killed.