Tuesday 21, March 2023

It's time to look beyond energy sector: Momen tells Blinken, seeking 'rock-solid' ties

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has sought diversified investment from the United States, noting that it is time to look beyond the energy sector while investing in Bangladesh.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has sought diversified investment from the United States, noting that it is time to look beyond the energy sector while investing in Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh is doing pretty well. But most of the investment (from the US) has been in the energy sector. Maybe it is time to look beyond that,” he said, while noting that the US is Bangladesh's biggest trading partner with the largest accumulated investment in the country.

Before the formal beginning of the bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken at the US Department of State, Momen said he is looking forward to a more enhanced and "rock-solid" relationship with the United States of America.

Bangladesh again demanded the withdrawal of sanctions imposed on elite force RAB and some individuals during the bilateral meeting where they discussed bilateral, regional, and global issues.

The US side appreciated the progress made over the last four months and cited the time-consuming process that needs to be followed for the withdrawal of such restrictions. The two countries discussed what they can do together to strengthen the partnership as Bangladesh sought wider and diversified cooperation from the US.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Bangladesh-US diplomatic ties (April 4, 1972), the meeting began at 1:30pm (Washington DC time) and lasted for around 45 minutes. Lawmaker Mahbubul Alam Hanif, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, Secretary (West) Shabbir Ahmad Chowdhury, and Bangladesh Ambassador to the US M Shahidul Islam accompanied Momen at the meeting.

In his remarks before the meeting formally commenced, Secretary Blinken expressed happiness for being able to work together on strengthening the partnership between the United States and Bangladesh.

“We are in fact celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations. And even as we think back on those 50 years, we’re really looking ahead to the start of the next 50 and the work that we can do together, as I said, to strengthen our partnership,” he said.

The US Secretary of State said Bangladesh has been a leader in rallying other countries to deal with the climate crisis that the planet is facing. “We deeply appreciate that, and we’re working closely together as well on Covid-19, and we’re proud to have been able to contribute through COVAX some 61 million vaccine doses to Bangladesh,” he said.

In turn, Secretary Blinken said, Bangladesh of course is showing extraordinary humanity and generosity in hosting nearly 1 million Rohingyas who have had to flee persecution in Myanmar.

“We’re grateful for that, and the work that you’ve done as one of the strongest supporters of UN peacekeeping around the world, and many other things as well. But we’ll have an opportunity today to discuss the work we’re doing together bilaterally in the region and indeed even globally,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Momen also thanked his US counterpart for committing 61 million of the vaccines - the highest among all the countries. “I think Bangladesh is the number one in terms of receiving the vaccine.”

In addition, he said, the 31 million for the recent economic assistance. “And I also thank you because you have declared the genocide in Myanmar, and we’re so happy you did. I hope there will be some repatriation of these persecuted people,” said the foreign minister.

Momen mentioned that they received a letter from President Biden and termed it an excellent letter. “It helps what we want to do. It talks about the last 50 years; we have done a remarkable achievement.”

The foreign minister said the US has always been a friend of Bangladesh, during bad times and good times. “And we look forward to a bright future, and that’s why I’m here.”

Over the last 50 years, Momen said, Bangladesh really achieved many – a lot of achievements. "Now we have a vibrant economy, a land of opportunity. And the US has been a great partner and friend."

Adding a personal note, he said he was thankful to the USA for providing him with a job and home when he was "homeless, jobless, and stateless."

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