Lahore - Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump addressed a joint press conference on Monday ahead of their meeting in New York City, ahead of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly opening on September 24.

In the televised event during which reporters were also present the two spoke about the ongoing situation in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, with PM Imran telling Trump that he felt that it was “the beginning of a crisis”.

The US president once again offered to mediate between Pakistan and India on the Kashmir issue. “If I can help, I will certainly help,” he said. “If both (Pakistan and India) want, I am ready to do it.”Trump noted that Kashmir’s was a complex issue that had been going on for a long time, but emphasised that arbitration could not be carried out unless both parties involved welcome it.

The president said he has a “good relationship” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a “very good relationship” with Prime Minister Imran as well. He said he has never failed as an arbitrator in the past and would be available to help if asked.

Speaking about the US-Pakistan relationship, Trump said the previous US governments mistreated Pakistan.

“People in my position have treated Pakistan very badly. I trust Pakistan but people before me didn’t, but they didn’t know what they were doing,” he said in response to a question.

Trump remarked, “[Leaders of] many countries wanted to meet with me and we were unable to meet with them.... I will tell you this: You have a great leader. He’s a good man, a nice man. Happens to be a great athlete.”

“I trust this gentleman right here,” he added, pointing to Prime Minister Imran.

Trump said he has a lot of Pakistani friends in New York who are “smart” and “great negotiators”.

Commenting on Pakistan’s progress to counter terrorism, the US president said: “I have heard they have made great progress and I think he (Imran) wants to make great progress.”

Asked whether he is concerned about the human rights situation in occupied Kashmir, Trump said: “Sure. I’d like to see everything work out. I want everybody to be treated well.”

Without specifying, Trump said he had heard a “very aggressive” statement from Modi on Sunday, adding: “I hope they (Pakistan and India) are going to be able to come together and do something that’s really smart and good for both.

“There is always a solution and I do believe that there is a solution.... I think it’s important that both sides want Washington to mediate on the Kashmir issue,” he said.

The US president said he will discuss the US-Afghan talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Addressing the US president and the reporters, Prime Minister Imran Khan said: “Trump heads the most powerful country in the world. And the most powerful country in the world has a responsibility.”

He said even though Trump had offered to mediate, India was refusing to talk to Pakistan. “In this situation, I feel that this is the beginning of a crisis. I honestly feel that the crisis is going to get much bigger [considering] what is happening in Kashmir,” cautioned.

“We look to the US to put out flames in the world,” the PM said.

Answering a question, Trump termed Iran as the “number one state of terror in the world”.

He said Iran is “doing very poorly”. He added when he took office, “Iran was a real threat to the entire Middle East and maybe beyond. And now they are having very very big difficulties to put it mildly.”

The meeting — which started after 10pm and is reported to be the first of two between the leaders during the UN session — follows a “Howdy, Modi!” rally in Houston on Sunday in which the US president and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a stage and showered each other with praise.

Trump and Imran last met in July at the Oval office. During their first one-on-one interaction, the US president had expressed his willingness to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the 70-year-old Kashmir dispute — an offer he has repeated but has been rejected by India.

Tensions between India and Pakistan reached a feverish pitch on August 5, when New Delhi unilaterally annexed occupied Kashmir, revoking a constitutional guarantee that gave a special status to the disputed territory.

A strict lockdown and communications blackout was imposed in the region that has snapped off ordinary people’s internet and mobile telephone service across much of occupied Kashmir. It has now entered its 50th day.

President Trump’s recent comments on Kashmir and India-Pakistan relations have triggered speculations about an indirect dialogue between the two South Asian neighbours during the UNGA, with Washington playing the role of a facilitator.

Last week, President Trump told reporters at a White House briefing that “a lot of progress” has been made in defusing India-Pakistan tensions and his statement has strengthened these speculations.

After it was confirmed that Trump would meet both Indian and Pakistani prime ministers before and during the UNGA, diplomatic observers in Washington said the possibility that he may use the meetings to discuss the situation in Kashmir is stronger than ever before.