The United Nations on Thursday welcomed Pakistan’s decision to return captured Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to India. Spokesperson for the UN Secretary General Stephane Dujarric said that the world body and the international community want the two countries to “de-escalate tensions”, PTI reported.

“The reports of the promise of the release of the Indian pilot by the Pakistani authorities would be a very much welcomed step,” he added. Dujarric said the United Nations was in touch with both the countries, but did not provide details.

Asked if Secretary General Antonio Guterres was willing to mediate between India and Pakistan, the spokesperson, Dujarric said the secretary general’s offices are “available should both parties or all parties, depending on the situation, agree to do that”.

The United Nations chief had earlier called on India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions through “meaningful, mutual engagement”.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was flying a MiG-21, was captured on Wednesday after his aircraft went down in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, during a dogfight between Indian and Pakistani aircraft. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said the government would release Abhinandan as a “peace gesture”.

Pakistan’s move to violate Indian airspace using F-16 aircraft was a response to the Indian Air Force’s strike in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on February 26, with the intention of destroying terror camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammad group. On Thursday evening, senior officers of the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy said Pakistani jets had tried to bomb Indian military installations in Kashmir, a claim Islamabad denies.