5:16 pm - Friday May 24, 0002

Kerry in city with packed schedule

US secretary of state John Kerry arrived in Dhaka on Monday morning on a nine-hour visit packed with a series of meetings to discuss bilateral and global issues that both sides expect to take the relations to ‘new heights’.

Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali received Kerry at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on his arrival around 10:15am from Geneva by a special aircraft.

Kerry will start his day visiting Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in the city at about 11:30am.

He will meet prime minister Sheikh Hasina at the Prime Minister’s Office at 12:00pm, reports United News of Bangladesh.

kerryKerry will reach state guesthouse Padma at 1:10pm and hold meeting with the foreign minister there. Mahmood Ali will host working lunch at the same venue from 1:50pm to 2:35pm.

He will visit K-Tex Industrial Company Ltd in Mirpur and will deliver a speech for youngsters at the EMK Center in Dhanmondi in the afternoon.

Then he will visit the residence of US ambassador Bernicat and the Chancery Complex of the US embassy from 5:00pm. From there he will move to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

He is scheduled to leave Dhaka for New Delhi at 6:40pm. Foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque will see him off at the airport.

The priority areas for talks will include ‘US’ growing cooperation on global issues, bilateral partnership on democracy, development, security and human rights’.

There are lots of ‘offers’ on the table, including different kinds of assistance the US is willing to provide to Bangladesh, said US ambassador Marcia Bernicat on Sunday.

She hinted that the ongoing assistance and new programmes on counterterrorism, fight against violent extremism and cooperation with law enforcement agencies will come up for discussion.

‘The visit is very nicely placed in the middle of all those ongoing efforts. This (visit) is an opportunity,’ Bernicat told reporters after attending a programme in the city.

However, Bangladesh has a position to go for need-based assistance protecting the country’s interest if any foreign country offers any assistance.

Ways to further strengthen cooperation on counterterrorism, defeating violent extremism, US assistance in a number of new areas, including security related assistance, will come up prominently during Kerry’s discussion with Bangladesh leadership, said officials from both sides.

Bangladesh may raise again the restoration of GSP facilities, duty- and quota-free access of Bangladeshi apparel to the US market and deportation of AM Rashed Chowdhury, a fugitive convicted killer in the murder case of Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, diplomatic sources said.

Bangladesh will convey its tougher stance against terrorism and violent extremism to Kerry, said a foreign ministry official.

The government is also ready to respond describing its position on the ‘people’s demand’ for continuing the trials of war criminals ‘if the issue comes up for discussions’ at any stage, a diplomatic source said.

Bangladesh will also brief the US secretary of state about the robust security measures taken after the Holey Artisan Bakery attack that claimed 17 foreign nationals’ lives.

Earlier, foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali said ‘all the aspects’ of Bangladesh-US relations, especially the current world order will be discussed during Kerry’s visit.

Both Bangladesh and the United States will touch upon the whole range of bilateral, regional and international issues with a special focus on current global order and what steps need to be taken as partners jointly in addressing the common challenges ahead to ensure the shared prosperity, foreign ministry officials said.

Discussion on strengthening cooperation in the areas of blue economy, energy, trade, investment and workers’ rights will also be discussed.

There is a scheduled event in New Delhi on August 30 titled ‘US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue’. Kerry will attend the event.

It is Kerry’s first visit to Bangladesh as US secretary of state after former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton visited Bangladesh during her tenure.

-New Age