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US Senate body asks Hasina, Khaleda

Begin talks to end pol stalemate for inclusive polls

By UNB, DHAKA
12th-Jan-2014       
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The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP Chief Khaleda Zia to eschew street violence and begin negotiations on a path towards 'free, fair, and inclusive elections'.
US Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate body, made the call in separate letters with similar content, to the 'two main political parties' dated January 8 which are available on its official website.
"The world is watching Bangladesh. As a strong supporter of our important bilateral relationship, I again urge renewed negotiations that will lead to free, fair, peaceful and inclusive elections and an immediate end to politically motivated violence," he said.
In the letters, Menendez urged both the leaders to end the 'current deadlock' to reaffirm their commitment to improving labour conditions in Bangladesh's garment industry. Expressing his concern about the ongoing political stalemate in Bangladesh, Menendez urged the Bangladesh leaders to work with their respective counterpart to develop a mutually agreed upon path forward for Bangladesh.
"The current political stalemate could destabilise the country and have long-term negative implications for the democratic process and economic prospects for Bangladesh. The people of Bangladesh deserve a durable, transparent and credible political process through which they can choose their future leaders," he wrote in his letters.
Menendez strongly condemned the violence and unrest during the pre-election period and on the election day. "Under no circumstances is violence an acceptable and legitimate expression of political views. The street violence must stop immediately and parties must have political space to peacefully express their views."
Bangladesh is a valued partner of the United States and bilateral trade between the two countries now tops $6 billion annually, and US companies have made significant long-term investments in Bangladesh.
"US relations with the people of Bangladesh have never been stronger and we partner on an increasingly wide array of common interests," he said. But, Menendez explained, the current political deadlock and the associated violence significantly threaten US-Bangladesh common achievements and the potential for continued progress on a range of issues such as counterterrorism and counter-piracy, the mitigation of natural disasters, poverty alleviation and food security.
The ongoing political deadlock has had serious economic consequences and will further weaken the confidence of international investors, he said adding that, "To end this downward spiral, I strongly urge you to begin negotiations on new elections that are free, fair, peaceful and inclusive."
Menendez mentioned that both the countries are also working together to improve labor conditions in Bangladesh. "While some progress has been made on fire and building safety, much more remains to be done and I still have serious concerns regarding the organising environment for workers."
Mentioning that the current period as 'tenuous' he urged both the leaders to publicly endorse the commitments to worker safety and labor rights embodied in the Generalized System of Preferences Action Plan.
Menendez also requested the two leaders to work closely with the United States and the international community to empower workers and bolster the confidence of international investors and consumers in Bangladesh's garment sector.

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