UN chief Ban seeks 'de-escalation' of Bangladesh unrest

Dhaka, PTI | Updated : 20 February 2015, 02:28 PM

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today exhorted Bangladesh to find a tangible way to “de-escalate” the current spate of deadly unrest while US Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to the opposition here to “cease violence” that has claimed over 100 lives in the past seven weeks.

“The Secretary-General encouraged the government of Bangladesh to seek concrete ways to de-escalate the situation and to engage constructively the opposition, for the long-term stability and development of the country,” read a UN statement after Bangladesh’s foreign minister A H Mahmood Ali met Ban on the sidelines of a White House Summit on ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ in Washington.

The statement said Ban also expressed his concern “regarding the loss of lives and political violence that have occurred in Bangladesh since the beginning of 2015”.

But he said the government had a “responsibility” to protect people in general from violence, and that all political parties should exercise their political rights to uphold established democratic norms and principles.

Talking to Ali also in Washington, Kerry meanwhile criticised the attacks on people even as ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has waged a fierce street campaign against her arch rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government.

The bdnews24.com portal quoting a US State Department official in Washington reported that Kerry said there could be “no tolerance” for tactics that target innocent citizens or “inhibit political expression” in a democratic Bangladesh.

The foreign ministry in Dhaka said Ali told the UN chief that the government remained “committed to ensuring the human rights and security of innocent civilians who are being targeted by terrorist acts and remained open to account for the lawful measures taken to this effect”.

But the foreign minister “regretted that the BNP leadership persistently rebuffed the government’s overtures, and instead chose the path of violence and terrorist methods at the expense of innocent lives”.

A European Union delegation yesterday also issued a statement urging an immediate end to the growing violence in and peaceful settlement of conflicts as they wrapped up a five-day visit to Bangladesh.

The UN secretary general earlier this week appealed to the premier and the BNP chief seeking to end the violence as he assigned UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco to work with the government and the opposition.

BNP earlier called for UN mediation as it spearheads its fierce campaign demanding a mid-term election before 2019 as scheduled. Hasina has rejected the demand.

BNP officially welcomed the UN secretary general’s call yesterday while government leaders on the other hand told a visiting EU delegation no talks could take place until the BNP-led 20-party rightwing alliance with fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami being a major partner stops the violence.

The government yesterday decided to form special tribunals to try rioters under a tough anti-terrorism law amid continued violence sparked by the BNP’s enforced blockade.

BNP launched the nationwide blockade since January 6 coinciding with the first anniversary of last year’s divisive election which it had boycotted. The opposition in the past seven weeks has also called several protracted nationwide general strikes to reinforce their blockade. 

First Published: Friday, February 20, 2015 02:26 PM
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