12:55 AM, October 23, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:35 AM, October 23, 2013

US, EU see parties on road to talks

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Diplomatic Correspondent

The US, the European Union and Australia think the government and opposition parties in Bangladesh can now proceed for a constructive dialogue with their proposed solutions to the country's current political challenges.
Meanwhile, UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco yesterday welcomed BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's proposal on polls-time government.
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena yesterday said with the prime minister's speech on October 18 and the opposition leader's press event on October 21, the door for dialogue had opened.
“I am hopeful now the situation is in place that a constructive dialogue can begin between the two major parties and way can be found forward for a free, fair and credible election,” he told reporters after the signing of a Bangladesh-US deal on counter terrorism at the home ministry.
William Hanna, ambassador of the EU delegation to Bangladesh, said, “It is good to see both parties seeking to avoid the path of confrontation. Now I think it is the time to engage in dialogue. I really do think this is the time now to engage in dialogue and positive signals have been given.”
Talking to a select group of journalists at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel yesterday, he urged both the parties to engage in constructive dialogue to bridge the gaps between them and to arrive at a politically acceptable way forward.
Hanna observed, “Our line is [that] dialogue is the way forward. So we really hope that it should be done by the main political parties here in Bangladesh. I don't think you need anyone to intervene. It's your affair. But it's terribly important that it should be done. The world is watching Bangladesh. We are concerned. We are expressing the concern today.”
Australian High Commissioner in Dhaka Greg Wilcock in a statement yesterday welcomed the recent remarks by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition proposing solutions to Bangladesh's political challenges.
“We encourage all sides to seize this opportunity for peaceful, constructive dialogue on a way forward,” he said, adding that Australia greatly values its long-standing, thriving relationship with Bangladesh.
Hanna, however, made it clear that how to proceed depended entirely on all the stakeholders. “It is not up to us to say how that should be done and what the formulation will be. But we have seen it's encouraging.... We stress on the positive aspects.”
Replying to a question, he said he would not engage in speculation about what was going to happen next. “We have been saying it for a number of years. It is nothing new what we are saying. Dialogue is the way forward. But we want to reiterate it.”
In this context Hanna noted that all member states of the EU recently had discussion in Brussels and that they had looked at the situation in Bangladesh.
“We should focus on that. Really, it is time to engage. If that is done, it can be possible to reach an agreement. But it depends on the goodwill and people should engage in that path, not in the path of confrontation.”
Talking to BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir over the phone, UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco hoped that a suitable environment will be created through discussions between the government and the opposition for holding a credible and participatory election, Khaleda's press secretary Maruf Kamal Khan quoted Taranco as saying to Fakhrul.
The UN official talked to Fakhrul for about half an hour, Maruf told The Daily Star last night.
“Taranco also informed Mirza Fakhrul that he would soon phone Awami League General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam to encourage him for holding talks to find a way out for holding a free, fair and participatory election,” added Maruf.
During his visit to Bangladesh on May 14, Taranco had renewed the UN's call for holding a meaningful and constructive political dialogue to create conducive conditions for conducting the next general election.

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