Momen flies to Washington | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 23, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:59 AM, February 23, 2021

Momen flies to Washington

Likely to meet Blinken tomorrow

Aiming to developing a solid relationship with the world's most powerful country, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen left for the US last night on a three-day visit, his first visit after President Joe Biden took office in January.

He will hold meetings with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tomorrow, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Menendez and some congressmen during his visit to Washington DC.

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Diplomatic sources said Bangladesh is seeking a visit by Blinken to Dhaka for the celebrations of the 50 years of Bangladesh's independence, which among others will be joined by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"We want to develop a solid relationship with the US. The US has new foreign policy. It gives importance on Bangladesh as it is geo-politically important," Momen told reporters at his ministry yesterday.

The US under Biden has rejoined the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; World Health Organsiation; announced reforms to immigration policy, allowing pathway for the undocumented immigrants to citizenship; and is in the process of joining Iran's nuclear deal, which is stark contrast to President Trump's "America First" and unilateral ways of doing things.

Foreign relations analysts say Bangladesh has new opportunities to work with the US, especially on climate change, addressing the coronavirus pandemic and the Rohingya crisis. The US is so far the largest donor in the humanitarian crisis and also creates pressure through sanctions on Myanmar generals' assets.

Biden's foreign policy also includes promoting democracy and human rights across the globe.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Biden's Climate Envoy John Kerry has already called him and discussed on cooperation in the climate change front more vigorously.

"John Kerry is very excited. He is a star on climate change issue…we are always ready to work on it," he said, noting that Bangladesh is president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum and can actively work on the interests of the vulnerable countries.

Dhaka also wants to augment trade with the US, which currently imports over $6 billion a year, mostly garment products, and to draw US investments in Bangladesh. 

Momen said the US is the largest investor in IT and energy, but there are other areas, including pharmaceuticals where the US can make investments given the new special economic zones being prepared for investors.

The minister will also give interviews to two US media outlets to respond to the "negative propaganda" in the US on Bangladesh. He did not name the outlets.

"It is said that many extrajudicial killings take place in Bangladesh. This is false. It hardly happens in Bangladesh. It does not happen for nothing … it has a procedure," Momen said. 

"If you talk about it, such extrajudicial killings happen in high numbers in the US. In 2020, at least 1,004 people were killed in extrajudicial ways. Of course, it was not intentional," Momen said.

He said he would also invite some US officials to join the golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh's independence.

"We have already invited the US officials. We will extend the same during my visit to Washington [DC]," Momen said, without naming the officials.

He said during his meetings, he would also request the US officials to arrange repatriation of Rashed Chowdhury, the fugitive killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

In July last year, US Attorney General William Barr reopened a sprawling case against Rashed Chowdhury, signaling that he could face deportation and death sentence.

Asked if he would meet the US attorney general, the foreign minister said, "NO".

Let other countries take Rohingyas

Foreign Minister Momen urged other countries and human rights bodies to come forward to share the burden of the Rohingyas, saying that Bangladesh has done enough.

The comment comes in relation to the UNHCR appeal for the immediate rescue of a group of Rohingya refugees in distress in the Andaman Sea. The refugees left Cox's Bazar approximately 10 days ago.

"An estimate shows around 84,000 people live in per square kilometre at Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar. Do you see it anywhere in the world? Let other countries take (Rohingyas). We can't take more," he told reporters.


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