Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to be back in Bangladesh at the behest of the Secretary-General. Since my arrival on 7 December, I have had discussions with a range of national stakeholders. I have met with the Prime Minister, the Opposition leader, the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary, the Chief Election Commissioner, a number of senior advisors to the Prime Minister and to the Opposition leader, as well as leaders of major political parties and representatives of civil society.
The current political crisis is exacting a heavy, human, social and economic toll on Bangladesh. It has resulted in increasing tension and seriously threatens the hard-earned economic and social progress that Bangladesh has achieved.
I also conveyed to everybody that I met the Secretary-General’s extreme concern about the rising levels of violence. The majority of the victims of this violence are innocent civilians, including women and children. I strongly urged everybody I met to exercise restraint, uphold human rights, and to respect the rule of law. The actions of leaders on these issues would address one of the greatest concerns I have felt during my short visit here: ensuring the security of all people.
The UN stands for free, fair, inclusive and non-violent elections. It is clear that the Bangladeshi people want and deserve this. The credibility of the election will ultimately rest with the people of this country.
I strongly believe that a solution to the current deadlock is still possible if there is political will, leadership and an attitude of compromise.
Yesterday and today at the invitation of the UN Secretary-General, senior representatives from the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party met and engaged in dialogue. I commend both sides for seizing this important opportunity: it is a first answer to the expectations of the people. A third meeting was agreed between the parties.
The leaders have shown statesmanship. It remains critical to reduce tension and to continue to engage in constructive dialogue so as to create a congenial atmosphere.
There are measures that would contribute immensely: a call by all sides to end the violence, the release of opposition political leaders, and a mutually satisfactory solution to concerns regarding the election schedule.
At this moment the world is remembering Nelson Mandela’s legacy. Please allow me to quote his words from the visit he made to Bangladesh in March 1997: “a nation united in pursuit of shared goals can overcome the most difficult problems”.
I firmly believe there is ground for an agreement. Bangladeshi leaders must continue to come together. I encouraged both sides to continue their dialogue in the spirit of good will and compromise. Bangladeshi’s expect them to work together constructively to decrease tensions and to find mutually agreeable solutions for free, fair, inclusive and non-violent elections.
On my return to New York, I will brief the UN Secretary-General on my visit and I will share with him the messages and views of those that I have met.
Bangladesh is an important Member State of the United Nations. It has a powerful voice in shaping the global development agenda beyond 2015. It is consistently one of the largest troop contributing countries to the UN peacekeeping operations. So much has been achieved since independence. The United Nations Team, here on the ground in Bangladesh, remains deeply committed to supporting the country’s drive to development and middle income status. We will also continue to support efforts to strengthen democracy.
I have enjoyed a tremendous hospitality of the Bangladeshi people. I remain optimistic about the prospects for this country’s future.
Before closing, I would like to thank the press. Please continue your work, please remain balanced and impartial.
I thank you for your attention and welcome questions.