Kathmandu, Oct. 31
United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon Friday pledged UNís "continued support" for the consolidation of peace and reform in Nepal. In a meeting with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ĎPrachandaí in Singha Durbar, Ban expressed happiness over the formation of the special committee on army integration.
UN chief Ban, who arrived in Kathmandu this evening, showed his keen interest in the integration of the Maoist combatants. Ban asked Prime Minister Prachanda about the process regarding the integration of the combatants, Hira Bahadur Thapa, PMís advisor on foreign affairs, informed the media after the meeting.
Prachanda and Ban touched upon a wide range of issues from the global bodyís support for Nepal, management of the Maoist armies, deputing Nepalís peacekeeping forces for UN to Somalia and Chad to the extension of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) during the 40-minute meeting held at the Prime Ministerís Office at Singha Durbar.
In his response, PM Prachanda said that the government had already formed a special committee to settle the issue and it would initiate its work very soon. He added that the process would be based on political consensus, according to Thapa.
Ban is on a two-day visit to Nepal at the invitation of Prime Minister Prachanda. He is scheduled to meet with President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, Constituent Assembly Chairman Subash Nemwang, Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav and President of the Nepali Congress (NC) Girija Prasad Koirala. He is addressing a meeting with Constituent Assembly members. He will also hold meeting with the UNMIN staff.
He will address a press conference and fly to Lumbini Saturday afternoon. From Lumbini, he is set to leave for Dhaka by a UNMINís special flight.
Talking about the possibility of extension of UNMIN, whose tenure will expire next January, PM Prachanda said that the future role of UNMIN would depend on how the committee on army integration decides to move ahead.
Ban asked Prachanda to decide on UNMIN as soon as possible, as the issue had to be discussed at the UN Security Council meeting.
During the meeting, Prachanda asked the UN chief to continue UN support for reconstruction of Nepal after the peace process.
The meeting between Prachanda and Ban is a continuation of the one held in New York in September.
Ban said that he was happy to have an opportunity to visit Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. "Although I am not a Buddhist, I am happy to visit Lumbini. Seventy-five per cent people in my homeland, including my mother, follow Buddhism," Ban said, according to Thapa.
In a statement, the visiting UN chief expressed his delight to be in Nepal, which he described as "an important Member State of the UN and a country undergoing a remarkable political-social transformation through a home-grown peace process and national reconciliation."
He said that before he became Secretary-General, he had watched with great interest the peace process that began to unfold in 2005 and its achievements. "And since taking office, I have given my full personal support to the work of the UN in support of the peace process," he said.
"I am proud that the UN has been a close partner in Nepalís development effort, in its struggle to end the 10-year conflict, in the fight to promote and defend human rights, and in the implementation of the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement," he added.
Ban said that he came to Nepal to congratulate the people for the remarkable historic progress they had made in establishing peace, and in particular, for the successful election of the Constituent Assembly in a largely peaceful process last April that had earned the admiration and respect of the entire international community.
"I also reaffirm the UNís firm commitment to continue to support the consolidation of peace and reform," he said.
He further said that much had been accomplished, yet much also remained to be done. "There are still numerous challenges to overcome. Although this is a short visit I am sure it will give a very good first-hand feel for the historic times the country is going through."
Meanwhile, PM Prachanda hosted a dinner in honour of the visiting UN chief this evening.
Institutionalisation of multiparty democracy, peace, justice and inclusive development are our immediate priorities, Prachanda said in his dinner speech before the visiting dignitary.
"This government has been actively working to bring the peace process to its logical conclusion, frame a constitution for a new Nepal and bring about far-reaching socio-economic changes, away from the old feudalistic structure of the country," PM Prachanda said. "We appreciate the constructive role played by UNMIN in facilitating our nationally-driven peace process."
Taking the opportunity to solicit "greater support and enhanced level of cooperation from development partners and international agencies," Prime Minister Prachanda said, "We call for the centrality of the UN in international affairs as it represents the highest form of multilateralism."
PM Prachanda said Nepal would continue to participate in UN peacekeeping missions as before.
"I have just arrived, but I can already feel the warmth of your countryís hospitality," the UN chief said in his reply at the banquet. "This trip is historic not just for me personally, but because I am the first Secretary-General to visit since the Constituent Assembly was formed."
Congratulating the Prime Minister for "this great milestone" created by the historic elections in Nepal, Ban said, "It would be especially inspiring for the entire world to see Nepal, which already makes such a tremendous difference in peacekeeping for others, overcome its own conflict and achieve lasting peace at home."
Some 60,000 Nepali troops and police have served UN peacekeeping operations under the blue flag over the last fifty years, Ban noted.
Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav had received the visiting UNSG at the Kathmandu airport. Yadav will also see him off at Bhairahawa airport.