Counselor of the US Department of State Derek Chollet has said they remain "hopeful" about future relations with Bangladesh - building on the strong partnership that has developed over 51 years.

In Dhaka, he has emphasized continued US support to Bangladesh in addressing Rohingya issues, the importance of "free and fair" elections and the protection of human rights, cooperation to mitigate climate change, and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Chollet met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, and other senior officials from the government of Bangladesh.

The counselor serves at the rank of under-secretary as a senior policy advisor to the US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on a wide range of issues and conducts special diplomatic assignments as directed by him.

"We are hopeful for the future. It has been 51 years of a very strong partnership. We are looking forward to the next 51 years and beyond. We have many shared challenges but we have many common opportunities that we have talked about," Chollet told reporters after his meeting with Foreign Minister Momen at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The United States and Bangladesh have a "robust partnership" based on decades of cooperation and support. "We look forward to strengthening our relationship in trade, investment, security, and other shared priorities," Chollet said while wrapping up his 24-hour Bangladesh tour on February 15.

Counselor Chollet and a delegation of senior US government officials from the Department of State and US Agency for International Development traveled to Dhaka to meet with senior government officials, civil society members, and representatives from humanitarian organizations.

"This has been a very productive visit to Bangladesh, and I'm honored my first trip to Bangladesh comes on the heels of the year when we marked the 50th anniversary of U.S.-Bangladesh relations," he said.

The US government is "dedicated to expanding" the full range of trade, security, education, and humanitarian cooperation and ties between the Bangladeshi and American people to promote a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for both our nations, said the US Embassy in Dhaka.

Stressing that the US wanted all elections to be free, fair and inclusive, the US Counselor told a select group of editors that, "If there's an erosion of democracy, it's going to be a limit on our ability to cooperate with each other. We see great potential in this relationship. But the reality is that the United States' strongest partnerships are with strong democracies. If democracies weaken anywhere it is going to be a limiting factor to our ability to cooperate."

Bangladesh has seen a series of visits by senior US officials in recent months with the last by US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Donald Lu.

The US State Department counselor said that the US places considerable importance on its relationship with Bangladesh, which is growing politically, economically and in terms of security.

On the Rohingya issue, he said they are continuously working and trying to help Bangladesh, which is hosting over 1 million Rohingyas, and also trying to deal with the root cause of the crisis in Myanmar.

Talking to reporters, Foreign Minister Momen said Bangladesh is happy to receive US diplomats. "We had a very good discussion. I am very happy. We are looking forward to better days," he said.

The Foreign Minister said the US will be with Bangladesh while dealing with the Rohingya crisis.

On February 16 in Sylhet, Foreign Minister Momen said the United States wants to establish a stronger relationship with Bangladesh, leaving aside the "misunderstandings".

"They (US) consider Bangladesh to be of importance. They want good relations with us where new possibilities are created," he said, adding that yesterday (February 15, 2023) was a "great day for Bangladesh."

Referring to important discussions with senior diplomats from India, USA and South Korea, Momen said they all appreciated Bangladesh's efforts and made a commitment to continue working for deeper relations.

Bangladesh has called upon the US to take effective measures to resolve the economic crisis that originated from the global food and oil crisis and the increased living cost due to the reciprocal trade sanctions.

Regarding Russia-Ukraine conflict, Bangladesh reiterated its position on resolving any disputes through peaceful means and asked for immediate end of the war. Chollet informed that the US has already started working to solve the food crisis.

In addition, the US has expressed Bangladesh's support towards international initiatives to resolve the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Acknowledging improvement in RAB's performance, the United States on Wednesday emphasized on "sustained reforms" while sought US support towards their capacity building.

Foreign Minister Momen highlighted that RAB is a key force in law enforcement and earned people's confidence and trust over the years.

Drawing attention to Bangladesh's remarkable progress in the socio-economic sector, Foreign Minister suggested the US take advantage of Bangladesh's liberal investment policy by investing in the designated special economic zones.

In addition, press freedom, national election and other issues were discussed during the meetings.

During the meetings, they discussed a wide range of bilateral and other issues of mutual interest including the Rohingya situation, Ukraine crisis, trade and investment and rights related matters.

Chollet appreciated Bangladesh for generously hosting more than a million Rohingyas and assured continued US humanitarian support and actions.

The US side expressed their commitment to support the ongoing criminal justice mechanisms in international courts.

Bangladesh thanked the US for its support and requested them to strengthen their humanitarian initiatives to Bhashan Char.

Bangladesh sought US's support for the earliest sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis and their repatriation.

Secretary (West) Shabbir Ahmad Chowdhury and other senior officials of the Foreign Ministry were present during the meetings from the Bangladesh side.

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas, Counselor for USAID Administrator Clinton White, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of US Department of State, South Central Asia Bureau Elizabeth Horst and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack were present from the US side.

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