UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a statement during the UNHCR - Global Refugee Forum at the European headquarters…
FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a statement at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 17, 2019.

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan says United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Islamabad next week to attend an international conference marking 40 years of Afghan refugees’ presence in the country.  

Guterres will deliver a keynote address at the two-day event starting February 17, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.  

Pakistan officially hosts 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, making it home to the one of the world’s largest refugee populations. More than one million immigrants from Afghanistan are believed to live in the neighboring country without proper documentation.

“The U.N. Secretary-General’s participation in the international conference is a recognition of Pakistan’s exemplary compassion, generosity and resolve in hosting Afghan refugees for the past four decades, and our efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the announcement noted.  

Delegations from 20 countries will be participating in the conference, which Islamabad is hosting in collaboration with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR.

A boy from an Afghan refugee family, carries a bucket of water on his head, filled at a nearby tap, on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, June 20, 2019.

 Guterres  also is scheduled to hold meetings with Pakistani President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, among others.  

Neighboring Iran, which also hosts hundreds of thousands of both registered and undocumented Afghan refugees, will be among the participants.

Islamabad said it is confident the conference will “reinforce international efforts to bring about a renewed focus” on the refugees, who have fled years of continued hostilities and persecution in Afghanistan.

“This conference is taking place at an important juncture when efforts at consolidating peace in Afghanistan are making progress,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

The United States has been holding months of peace negotiations with the Taliban to find a political settlement to the 18-year Afghan insurgency.

The latest meeting between U.S. and representatives of the Afghan insurgent group took place on Sunday in Qatar, the traditional host of the dialogue. But neither side has indicated whether it is close to signing a long-awaited peace deal to end what has become America’s longest war.  


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