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US sees huge potential to grow relations with BD: Chollet

Diplomacy 2023-02-10, 9:04pm

Derek Chollet, Counselor of the US Department of State

Dhaka, Feb 10 - Counselor of the US Department of State Derek Chollet has said they see "huge potential" in their relationship with Bangladesh and there is a lot of "room to grow."

"We are keen to follow up on that – it is a remarkable journey - 51 years. We are interested in deepening the ties," he said ahead of his planned visit to Bangladesh on February 14.

Talking at the television talk show "Tritiyo Matra" online, the US Counselor said he is coming to talk to senior officials and private sectors in Bangladesh to discuss ways to deepen the ongoing cooperation between the two countries.

Mentioning that the US places democracy and human rights at the heart of their foreign policy, Chollet said Bangladesh is such a good long-standing friend and they have "very frank exchanges" about the concerns they have.

The US counselor said they acknowledge that no democracy is perfect but they always try to make themselves better and try to acknowledge their mistakes and improve.

He said when they talk about freedom of press, free and fair elections or the ability of civil society to organize and express their views freely, they do so freely in the "spirit of partnership and friendship."

"We look forward to continue working closely with the government of Bangladesh," Chollet said, adding that being a strong democracy is vital for a country to be successful.

He said democracy is learning from one another and they look forward to continue working with Bangladesh as they to try to make their democracies stronger.

About the next national election in Bangladesh, Chollet said they say the same to any of their democratic friends that they would want any election will be free and fair.

He appreciated peaceful rrallies held last year in Bangladesh and said that is a good thing.

The issues related to the Rohingya crisis and overall security in the Indo-Pacific region are likely to get priority during his visit.

"We are deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar which is only getting worse," said Chollet.

The US want solution to the Rohingya crisis and solution lies in Myanmar but instability is growing inside Myanmar.

The US Counselor said they are doing whatever they can in cooperation with Bangladesh and to try to ease the pressure on the country from the refugee crisis by providing critical assistance to it to support its humanitarian needs, also with efforts to try to bring some of the refugees back to the US.

The vibrancy of Bangladesh economy encourages the US to have a "deeper cooperation" with Bangladesh.

The US counselor will try to realize their common interest – economic ties, diplomatically and will explore what they can do to improve their security relations further and work together for addressing shared challenges – regionally, in Myanmar and globally like climate change.

There are "whole host of issues" that the two countries can work together, said the US Counselor.

Highlighting the importance of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, Chollet said Bangladesh is an important partner and that is why they have seen such a steady stream of high-level visitors.

The Indo-Pacific Strategy of the US outlines President Biden's vision to more firmly anchor the country in the Indo-Pacific and strengthen the region in the process. Its central focus is a sustained and creative collaboration with allies, partners, and institutions, within the region and beyond it.

The forthcoming visit of US counselor Chollet will help strengthen Bangladesh-US relations, said a spokesperson Thursday.

"Counselor Derek Chollet will be visiting Bangladesh. The purpose of his visit is to strengthen the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the United States," Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Seheli Sabrin told reporters in the afternoon.

The US counselor serves at the rank of under secretary as a senior policy advisor to the US secretary of state on a wide range of issues and conducts special diplomatic assignments as directed by the secretary.

Sabrin said Chollet will also discuss the Rohingya issue and see the situation on the ground. Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar and Bhasan Char.

"The programmes are yet to be finalised," said the spokesperson about Chollet's planned February 14-15 visit.

Chollet previously held positions at the state department, the White House, and the Department of Defence.

From 2012-2015, he was the US assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs, where he managed US defence policy towards Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere.

Before joining the Pentagon, Chollet served at the White House as special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning on the National Security Council (NSC) staff.

From 2009 to 2011, he was the principal deputy director of the state department's policy planning staff.

He served on the 2020 Biden-Harris State Department transition team as well as the 2008 Obama-Biden NSC transition team. - UNB