US committed to broaden and deepen ties with Bangladesh – Ambassador Bernicat

Bernicat

Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat in her first media call on Tuesday said she was focused on making the Dhaka-Washington ties “broader and deeper”.

But, she said, the “US stands ready to help if the help is requested” since Bangladesh’s friends all over the world were concerned over the current political situation.

She was barraged with questions on the ongoing political deadlock and whether the US would call for dialogue as a way-out.

Bernicat, however, said it was for Bangladeshis to come up with their own solutions.

She condemned the use of violence for political gains in the “strongest terms” and categorically said that US did not back any party in Bangladesh.

“Let me take this opportunity to say very directly that the United States does not back any particularly political force or party in Bangladesh.”

A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, Bernicat served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Human Resources at the Department of State before her latest assignment.

She arrived here on Jan 25 and presented her credentials on Feb 4 amid ongoing BNP-sponsored blockade that began on Jan 5, marking the first anniversary of last year’s parliamentary election that the BNP had boycotted.

The US did not find the elections credible and called for fresh elections as soon as possible.

Even Bernicat, during her Congress hearing for confirmation of the Bangladesh job, had termed the elections “undeniably flawed”.

When she was asked on Monday about her position on the election now, she said the US government’s views on elections were “well-known and on the record”.

“I want to emphasise our intent to move with our bilateral relationship keeping in mind that we believe very strongly that Bangladesh is a democratic country.”

She said when she was in Washington she heard somebody characterised Bangladeshi people having democracy in their DNA.

“I thought that was a very truthful way to characterise. I think we have that in common.

“This is a democratic society and there are many means by which people can address these (political) issues,” she said.

She hoped that Bangladeshis would use “that space created by the democratic process to address issues in peaceful manner that allows everyone to express their views”.

“Everyone has a role to play in stopping the violence, to resolve their differences through non-violent and responsible political expression.”

The diplomat said the US intention was to work with all Bangladeshis, including a government that is receptive to “a broader and deeper” relation with the US.

“Looking ahead, we want to promote a middle-income Bangladesh that is secure and prosperous.”

Bernicat said the US-Bangladesh relations was “one of America’s most important partnerships”.

“It is a relationship that is based on trust and respect for our shared values and common interests.

“We have so much work to build on. Our focus now is to look ahead and move the relationship forward.

“I am eager to work with the government, the opposition, and civil society on our vital and common interests over the coming years of my tenure,” the envoy said.

Condemning violence, she said when violence took place whatever in nature it created “all kinds of instability” besides injuries and deaths.

She said people cannot travel, work and even goods cannot be shipped out and all of these disrupt the life-blood of the country.

“Instability can also make country more susceptible to extremism.”

Bernicat lauded Bangladesh’s socio-economic progress and said there were “so many good reasons to make sure that stable environment return so that Bangladesh can resume all of the good progresses it made”.

“I have every hope that Bangladesh will find way to resolve the crisis.”

She said she was mandated to do everything in her power to broaden and deepen the bilateral ties.

“I pledge to you I’ll do that…I am focused, the US is focused and Bangladesh is focused on moving forward.”

“Our interest is in the Bangladesh that is peaceful and united. It is my responsibility to engage with all individuals here, meeting with all parties, meeting with civil society and business community.

“I am a lifelong student. I am going to reach as much as I can,” the ambassador said.

She referred to all the engagements between the two countries including the partnership dialogues and the visit of five assistant secretaries in recent times.

“These should all tell you we are moving forward in a very positive and in a very direct way” to strengthen the relations, she remarked.

According to her, the US was particularly “grateful” for Bangladesh’s cooperation in countering terrorism and appreciated Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali for joining the White House-sponsored countering violent extremism summit beginning on Wednesday in Washington.

She said the foreign minister would meet Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit.

Bernicat lauded the presence of media in Bangladesh and said that was “the hallmark of really vibrant democracy”.

She, however, said among other things they wished to see a “strong rule of law prevails in Bangladesh”.

Replying to a question on the ongoing war crimes trial, she said they wanted to see the process “transparent and fair according to your law”.

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