UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: Indo-Pak tussle 'deep concern'
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is following with "deep concern" the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan, calling on both sides to urgently take steps for a "meaningful mutual engagement".
In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack by the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), tensions have escalated between India and Pakistan.
India carried out air strikes against the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In the operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for suicide attacks were eliminated. The facility at Balakot was headed by Yousuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of the JeM chief.
Following the air strikes by India, Guterres again stressed on his urgent appeal to the governments of India and Pakistan to exercise maximum restraint to ensure that the situation does not further deteriorate.
The UN chief is "obviously, following the situation as we see it even today with deep concern, and his the United Nations' message, both publicly and privately, to both sides is to urgently take steps to lower tensions through meaningful, mutual engagement and meet their responsibilities to maintain peace and security in the region," his spokesperson Stphane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday.
Asked if Guterres spoke to the leaders of India and Pakistan following another day of escalating tension and plans to get involved to try and mediate a de-escalation, Dujarric said Guterres had received a call Tuesday from Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, adding that there have been contacts at various levels with all sides.
He said that "as always", the Secretary-General's good offices are always "available should both parties or all parties, depending on the situation, agree to do that".
The spokesperson said the UN chief, through his contacts and others, are in touch with the relevant parties to pass along the message of the need to take steps to lower tensions and exercise maximum restraint.
Dujarric said contacts have been made at various levels between the UN and India and Pakistan but did not give further details as to which officials in India the contacts have been made with.
Asked about the UN's role at this point in the situation, he said that the Secretary-General is "kept apprised" of the situation and he is following it.
"Discussions are being held at different levels with different parties to make sure that we have we get a full picture of what is going on and the message coming out of those discussions is on the need for both countries to do whatever they can to de-escalate the situation," he said.
In the days following the Pulwama attack, Guterres repeatedly stressed on the importance for both sides to exercise maximum restraint and take immediate steps to de-escalation.
Guterres reiterated his strong condemnation of the terrorist attack against Indian security forces and said it is "essential that there be accountability under international law and the perpetrators of terrorist acts be brought swiftly to justice".
At the same time, the Secretary-General "urgently" appealed to the governments of both India and Pakistan to exercise maximum restraint to ensure the situation does not further deteriorate, the UN chief's spokesperson said.
The UN Security Council in a press statement issued last week also "condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly" suicide bombing in Pulwama.
The 15-nation Council "underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice, and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Government of India and all other relevant authorities in this regard".
Forty CRPF personnel were killed and many injured on February 14 in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a JeM suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.