Social Icons

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Kerry to visit Dhaka ‘in months’


US wants to strengthen current govt, says foreign minister

United States Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Bangladesh ‘within months’, Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali told The Independent yesterday.
The minister also said that Kerry has expressed his country’s intention to strengthen the current Awami League-led government. “Secretary Kerry told me that they are with the government and they want to strengthen the hand of the current government,” the foreign minister said in an interview with this correspondent at his office. 
Ali returned home from Washington early yesterday where attended a White House-sponsored summit on countering violent extremism and held meetings with US Secretary of State Kerry and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“Kerry will come to Bangladesh soon. I must come, Kerry told me,” said Minister Ali, adding that the time for the visit has not been fixed yet.
Answering to a query, he said the visit of John Kerry would take place ‘within months’.
Kerry condemned the attacks on civilians and called upon the opposition parties to stop such attacks, said the minister.
“He categorically called upon the opposition to stop violence,” he said, adding that Kerry also called upon the government to end the ongoing violence in the country. 
According to the readout of the meeting, Kerry called for government action to peacefully end the recent violence, underscored the government’s role in ensuring peaceful political expression for all parties, and emphasised the need for a free and fair media that plays a constructive role in ensuring human rights.
It also said that the secretary offered renewed US support to help achieve a political solution that would return Bangladesh to its democratic foundations.
When asked what support Kerry wants to offer, the foreign minister said, “He said nothing specific. He said they are with us.” Asked what his response to the US offer was, he said, “I said thank you very much. We will see.”  
“Bangladesh is a democracy and we support the democratic process of Bangladesh. We want Bangladesh to be a successful country,” Ali said quoting his US counterpart.
“No one talked about any interim polls. No one talked about any dialogue for holding elections,” he said.
“Kerry said we just want the violence to stop,” he added.
During the meeting, Minister Ali requested his US counterpart to extradite Rashed Chowdhury, a convicted killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is reportedly hiding in the US.  
Asked about Kerry’s response in this regard, Ali said, “He listened to it. I hope we will be able to see a positive result.”
The US secretary of state praised Bangladesh’s economic and social development and sought Bangladesh’s support on issues relating to climate change, he said.
“Kerry was full of praise for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her work on climate change mitigation. When Kerry will be in Bangladesh, he will see the projects on climate change”, said the foreign minister.  
“We have broad-based cooperation with the US,” he said.
The minister said his US counterpart appreciated his attending the summit on countering violent extremism.
At the summit on February 19, Minister Ali said, “Terrorists are terrorists irrespective of their belief, creed and caste. There must be an absolute zero tolerance to all forms of terrorism and violent extremism.”
“It is a matter of growing concern that the BNP and other political parties in Bangladesh are directly inciting an extremist agenda in order to challenge the democratic, non-communal, and non-confrontational narrative we are trying to propagate from the government,” he said.
“In fact some of their recent cowardly acts like throwing petrol bombs at passenger-laden vehicles are almost akin to the terror tactics being used by the Islamic State and others,” he added.

The Independent, 23 February 2015