Annan arrives in Pakistan for talks on Afghanistan, regional tensions

Annan arrives in Pakistan for talks on Afghanistan, regional tensions

Kofi Annan arrives in Pakistan
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Islamabad today for meetings with Pakistan's leadership to discuss support for the new Interim Administration in Afghanistan, as well as regional issues, including recent tensions in India-Pakistan relations.

Mr. Annan, who arrived in Pakistan accompanied by his Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, is scheduled to meet tomorrow with President Pervez Musharraf and Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar.

Responding to a question during a press encounter at the Islamabad airport, the Secretary-General said that he had been personally in touch with both India and Pakistan, as well as others, about the need to de-escalate tensions.

"I have been very pleased with the statement made by President Musharraf eleven days ago, and I think these are very important statements, and I think this is a step in the right direction, and we need to build up on that," he said. "And I hope that would also lead to defusing the tensions."

Mr. Annan made a similar comment earlier in the day when on his way to Islamabad from Tokyo, he made a brief stopover in Bangkok.

Asked about the possibility of an escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan, the Secretary-General stressed that the two countries could only solve their problems through political and diplomatic means.

"I think what we need to do is to encourage the two parties to resolve their differences through dialogue, including the questions of Kashmir," Mr. Annan said. "And I hope than once the current tensions have been reduced, we will not stop there and consider that satisfactory but move on with the search for a longer term solution."

In Bangkok, the Secretary-General met Min Surakiart, the Foreign Minister of Thailand, to discuss UN activities and operations in Afghanistan. At a press conference afterwards, the Secretary-General reiterated his positive assessment of the Tokyo pledging conference on the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

"It was very well attended and the results were good," he said of the two-day forum that ended on Tuesday. "And we would hope to see the pledges made transformed into cash as quickly as possible, particularly resources that we need for this year."

On Friday morning, the Secretary-General will leave for Kabul for a series of meetings with members of the Interim Administration, including Chairman Hamid Karzai.