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UNGA President Maria Espinosa calls on FM Qureshi in Islamabad

Updated January 18, 2019

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Multilateralism and reforms of the UN Security Council discussed during meeting. — Foreign Office media
Multilateralism and reforms of the UN Security Council discussed during meeting. — Foreign Office media

United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa ─ in her first official trip to the Asia-Pacific region since assuming office in September last year ─ met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office in Islamabad on Friday.

The UNGA president, who arrived today, is expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi as well, along with representatives of the United Nations, civil society and women's rights organisations.

Qureshi and Espinosa in their meeting discussed "global trends, multilateralism, the regional situation, the centrality of the UN and Security Council reform", according to the Foreign Office.

In a press conference following the meeting, Espinosa said that, among other topics, the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees were discussed during her meeting with Foreign Minister Qureshi.

"I think Pakistan needs to be congratulated for its generosity in hosting millions of Afghani refugees in this country," she said, adding that the compacts discussed can foster greater cooperation as well as burden-sharing between countries of origin, transit and destination.

The UNGA president noted that hosting refugees is a "very important burden" on the fiscal architecture of a country and requires a lot of investment and resources.

"Countries that have this generosity should also be compensated, acknowledged and recognised," she said.

Espinosa also commended Pakistan's role in supporting the Afghan peace process.

"I think a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan would benefit the entire region," she said.

She thanked Qureshi for the fruitful conversations and said it was an honour to visit Pakistan and to meet a new government that was "extremely committed" to sustainable development, strengthening multilateralism, as well as to the strengthening and revitalisation of the UN and its system.

Qureshi said during the meeting, the UNGA president was informed that Pakistan had been hosting over three million Afghan refugees over the last four decades. He said Pakistan was "actively engaged" with Afghanistan to find a durable solution to the Afghan conflict and that Islamabad believed in an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, Radio Pakistan reported.

The foreign minister reiterated that peace in Afghanistan was also in Pakistan's best interest.

During the meeting, Qureshi said he discussed the steps taken by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to alleviate the adverse impacts of climate change and informed Espinosa of the government's plan to plant 10 billion trees in the next five years.

He also told her about the laws passed in recent years for the protection of women's rights and to raise their socioeconomic profile in line with the sustainable development goals, as well as the role of Pakistani troops in international peacekeeping, Radio Pakistan reported.

Responding to a question about human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and the role the UN could play in resolving the dispute, Qureshi recalled that Pakistan has previously talked about the issue but there has been a change in how its position is received since a report was published by the UN's Office of the High Commission of Human Rights in June 2018.

He noted that the report highlighted the stance Pakistan has taken in the past on rights violations in Kashmir.

Among the report's recommendations, one was for the UN to form a commission of enquiry which would investigate the situation and present the facts, which, Qureshi said, Pakistan believes should be given attention.

Qureshi stressed that Pakistan believes that it is the responsibility of the UN to play its role for progress on the Kashmir issue.

Providing a brief overview of the situation in occupied Kashmir, including the loss of lives and human rights violations, Qureshi said that with the continued violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and the way weapons are being accumulated by Pakistan's neighbour, there is a fear that this will become a "flashpoint" which ought to be addressed.

The foreign minister further said Pakistan is a peaceful country that wants to remain peaceful with its neighbours, but as an issue of human rights, this (the Kashmir issue) required "urgent" intervention.

He added that Pakistan believed individuals such as Espinosa could play their role.