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Saudi-Led Alliance

Moscow initially surprised by Dhaka's joining

Alexander Nikolaev

Russia was initially surprised by Bangladesh joining the Saudi-led 34-nation “Islamic Alliance” to combat terrorism, but is not worried over the present activities of the coalition.

“Despite our initial astonishment upon [Bangladesh] joining this Saudi Arabia-led coalition, we are not, for the moment, taking care about further development of this coalition and its activities,” said Russian Ambassador in Dhaka Alexander Nikolaev.

Responding to a question at DCAB Talk yesterday, he said the coalition has lost significance after the recent joint statement of the US and Russia on cessation of hostilities in Syria.

He said the Bangladesh foreign ministry “underlined” many times that troops from Bangladesh would be deployed following the UN Security Council resolutions.

Addressing the talk organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at the Jatiya Press Club yesterday, the Russian ambassador said there were three such coalitions to fight terrorism, including the Saudi-led one.

Bangladesh announced joining the coalition in December last year following Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir's request to his Bangladesh counterpart AH Mahmood Ali.

Describing Russia's relations with the present government “excellent”, the ambassador said, “This is guaranteed that the ties will be continued under any potential government in the coming 20, 30 or 100 years.”

He said Moscow sees Dhaka as a reliable and time-tested partner in promoting multi-polar global architecture and fair economic and financial system.

He said Russia would continue to focus on energy sector cooperation with Bangladesh as a friend and a partner in its ambitious development goals.

“Russia remains Bangladesh's friend and partner in its development drive.”

Ambassador Nikolaev, who leaves Dhaka on March 10 completing his four-year diplomatic assignment in Bangladesh, said a strong energy sector is a major precondition to overall development of any modern state and Bangladesh is doing its best to achieve universal electrification by the year 2021.

He reassured that the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant would be 100 percent safe and suggested that journalists ask technologically sound and educated people about safety to get clear and understandable answers.

Referring to his discussion with BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and other leaders in the past, the Russian ambassador expressed satisfaction over the support of the Awami League government and the representatives of the BNP for the project.

On trade, Nikolaev said Russia-Bangladesh trade relations show constant growth. The volume of bilateral trade in 2015 reached almost $ 1 billion, he said, adding, “Evidently, there is great potential to increase it far beyond this level.”