- Spokesperson Ned Price says US does not intend to single out any one particular country as destination for refugees
- Statement comes amid Pakistan's stance that it cannot host anymore Afghanistan refugees
The United States (US) has said that it believes it is important that neighbouring countries keep their borders open for refugees, a reference to Pakistan that comes as Islamabad maintains it cannot host anymore Afghanistan citizens.
During the weekly press briefing, Spokesperson for the United States Department of State, Ned Price, was asked whether discussions with Pakistan, Turkey and neighbouring countries asking them to keep their borders open for an outflow of refugees from Afghanistan were being held.
"Well, look, it is important, we believe, for countries – and I’m not going to speak to specific countries, but we believe it is important for countries to keep their borders open to potential refugee flows," Price replied.
"We did not intend to signal out – to single out any particular country as a destination for refugees."
However, Prime Minister Imran Khan among other senior Islamabad officials have repeated that Pakistan is not in a position to host more refugees. PM Imran earlier said that the only good outcome for Afghanistan is a political settlement, adding that if there is a protracted civil war, Pakistan will face a refugee problem.
In an interview aired on PBS NewsHour, the PM had said that Pakistan is hosting over three million Afghan refugees already.
"And what we fear is that a protracted civil war would lead to more refugees. Our economic situation is not such that we can have another influx," he said.
The premier pointed out the government cannot bear the burden of Afghan refugees anymore as it has made hectic efforts to revive the national economy. "The other worry is that the civil war will flow into Pakistan."
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf during a presser also said that arrangements should be made to keep displaced Afghans inside their country.
When asked if Islamabad was ready to accept more refugees from Pakistan, Yusuf replied that it is the responsibility of the world to create a secure area inside Afghanistan, adding that Pakistan does not have the capacity to take more refugees.
Less than a month before the US is set to end its longest-ever war, the State Department on Monday announced a new refugee admissions programme for Afghan nationals that involves first resettling them in third countries in the region while their paperwork is processed.
The State Department referred to Turkey as one possible relocation point, also mentioning Pakistan. However, Ankara has criticised the US plan to use third countries such as Turkey to resettle thousands of Afghans who risk being targeted by Taliban insurgents over their US links.
"It's unacceptable to seek a solution to the problem in our country without our country's consent," the foreign ministry said in a statement issued late Tuesday.
Already home to more than four million migrants -- most from war-torn Syria -- Turkey said it was never consulted on accepting refugees from Afghanistan.
With the ongoing withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, Ankara fears a new influx of refugees. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkish officials were holding high-level talks over the issue with Afghan counterparts.
The Turkish ministry said the US plan would lead to a "big migration crisis in our region", adding it lacked the capacity to deal with "a new migration crisis on behalf of a third country".
It said if the US wanted to take in the Afghans, it could do so through "direct flights".
On Monday, the US announced a new refugee admissions programme for Afghan nationals.
The programme covers interpreters and translators who worked with US forces, Afghans involved with US-funded projects and those employed by US-based NGOs or media organisations.
It involves resettling the Afghans in third countries in the region for around a year while their paperwork is processed.
With additional input from AFP