May 18, 2013
Issues related to Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry and migration of Rohingyas figured prominently during talks between foreign Minister Dipu Moni and US Secretary of State John Kerry at Washington on Friday.
“We’re looking forward to more cooperation in all areas of our common concern, both bilaterally and also at multilateral levels,” Dipu Moni said after the meeting.
She said Kerry has been invited to visit Bangladesh and the US Secretary of State has said he will try to come soon.
This is the first meeting between the two after John Kerry took over as the Secretary of State in January.
Addressing the media jointly, Kerry said the US was prepared to help in any way possible for those affected by Cyclone ‘Mahasen’.
He expressed grief over the death of more than 1,100 people in the Rana Plaza collapse.
“We hope that this will be able to help all of us cooperate on the issue of labour safety and workers’ rights,” Kerry said.
But he did neither confirm nor deny reports that the US was considering to put an end to the GSP for Bangladesh’s garment industry.
About the Rohingya issue, Kerry said: “The Rohingya is really a problem that comes from Burma, from Myanmar … And it creates tensions, and it’s a difficult issue.”
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni corrected him as he mistook the number of Rohingyas in Bangladesh as 30,000. Moni said 30,000 Rohingyas are registered, but there are many more of them.
According to government estimates, there are over 500,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The government claims these refugees are involved in various acts of violence in Bangladesh.
Moni has argued that Bangladesh should not be pushed to accept more Rohingyas, as it was itself an over-populated nation with scarce resources.
Rather, she has said, Myanmar should be pressurised to accept the Rohingyas as its citizens so that the beleaguered minority does not feel it necessary to migrate from Myanmar.
It was however not clear whether Kerry was prepared to push Myanmar on the Rohingya issue.