UNITED NATIONS - A top Pakistani diplomat called for an end to the deadly American drone strikes in tribal areas of Pakistan and demanded immediate talks to resolve the contentious issue that he raised at the UN Security Council on Thursday.

“Drone strikes infringe our sovereignty, violate international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law, cause civilian casualties and are detrimental to the combined efforts to fight terrorism,” Ambassador Masood Khan told the 15-nation Council during a discussion on the situation in Afghanistan.

Noting that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called attention to the adverse consequences of the use of armed drones, the Pakistani Ambassador said.

“We call for cessation of drone strikes. Urgent and intense dialogue can help resolve this issue.” The All Parties Conference (APC) had recommended raising of the drone issue at the United Nations.

In his speech, Masood Khan also said that Pakistan is facilitating the Afghan reconciliation process, but progress is attainable only if all stakeholders share the goals of the peace process.

“We need to pursue this goal together, with unity of purpose,” the Pakistani envoy said.

On its part, he said Pakistan has released another batch of seven Taliban detainees and also announced the release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, an imprisoned senior Afghan Taliban commander, in addition to the release of 26 detainees earlier. “We are doing this to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process,” Masood Khan said.

He referred to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood and of close ties between people of Pakistan and Afghanistan during Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent visit to Islamabad, stating that vision is the legacy of the Pakistani leader’s “sincere attempts for peace in Afghanistan during his first term in office, that contributed to formation of a broad-based government in Afghanistan in 1992.”

Pakistan’s own stability and prosperity, he said, depended on peace and security in Afghanistan. “This shared destiny drives our relationship with Kabul. We are endeavouring to strengthen bilateral cooperation in all spheres, including the economic, political, military and intelligence fields.”  He pointed out that Pakistan’s civilian and military personnel have given unprecedented sacrifices for fostering peace in the region, and that these must not go waste. “We will all be successful when the people of Afghanistan succeed.”

He regretted that the initiative of dialogue through the Taliban office in Doha had sputtered. “But we mustn’t lose hope. Dialogue is indispensable. The Afghan government, Taliban and other Afghan political forces must continue to explore ways to find a formula for Afghan reconciliation.”

Masood Khan said that productive engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan would reinforce connectivity and regional economic cooperation.

“We will continue to work on trade, energy and communication links through trans-national initiatives. In this context, communication, power and rail projects are extremely important.”  Referring to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report that Afghan security forces have demonstrated increased capabilities and determination in assuming security responsibilities, he said it was important that organised crime, narcotics trafficking and illicit arms proliferation be stopped.

“We need more aggressive policing and surveillance of the border,” the Pakistani envoy said this will help stop the shelling.

“Terrorists and militants from both sides are pushing Pakistan and Afghanistan towards escalation. We must not allow to manipulate the two sides.”

Noting that the UN chief during his visit to Pakistan last month called for attention to the adverse consequences of the use armed drones, he said such strikes infringe Pakistan’s sovereignty, violate international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law, cause civilian casualties and are detrimental to the combined efforts to fight terrorism. We call for cessation of drone strikes. “Urgent and intense dialogue can help resolve this issue,” he said.  Pakistan, he said, was trying to evolve a regional approach to tackle the problem of drug money which plays a major role in financing extremism and terrorism.