Address Rohingya problem not punishment: US

Address Rohingya problem not punishment: US

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Citing positive developments over Rohingya issue, the United States on Sunday said their current purpose is to solve the Rohingya problem, not to punish anyone.

“Right now our purpose is to solve the problem, not to punish…,” US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A Shannon told a joint briefing at State Guesthouse Padma.

He said there have been some positive movements regarding the Rohingya crisis, and Burmese authorities have been receiving international community and their diplomats and government officials.

The US official also said there have been engagements between diplomats and other government officials between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“So, engagement is taking place. Dialogue is taking place,” Shannon said adding that their purpose is to try and find a way to capture that and continue to move it forward towards some kind of solution.

The senior US official, however, did not rule out tougher measures if the diplomatic efforts, dialogue and engagement fail to bring any solution.

“We’ve a variety of sanctions available to us should we decide to use them. This will be a part of larger efforts of pressure,” Shannon explained.

He said they intend to work with all governments– the government of Bangladesh, international institutions and organisations like the UN to address the humanitarian crisis.

Earlier in the day, the sixth US-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue was held reviewing the entire gamut of the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Apart from the bilateral issues, regional and global issues, including the Rohingya crisis, were discussed in the dialogue.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A Shannon led the US side while Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque the Bangladesh side.

Foreign Secretary Haque said the US remains the strongest supporter of Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue and the US has so far taken 31 concrete steps over the issue.

Foreign Ministry officials said the safe, sustainable and dignified return of the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals was discussed with outmost importance in the dialogue.

Bangladesh underscored the vital importance of sustained political pressure and actions of all kinds on Myanmar government by the international community and particularly by the US government for their early repatriation and permanently stopping the violence.

Bangladesh side highlighted the five-point proposal given by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the 72nd UNGA in New York in September this year.

Both Bangladesh and the US sides discussed the humanitarian crisis unfolding on the border with Myanmar.

“I reiterated the alarm expressed by officials at the highest levels of the US government, including President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Tillerson, regarding the scale of the atrocities that are being reported in northern Rakhine State,” Shannon said.

He also conveyed US’ deep appreciation and respect for the generosity of the government and the people of Bangladesh in responding to the over half a million Rohingyas who have arrived in Bangladesh since August 25.

Bangladesh underlined the fact that despite the claim from the Myanmar side that the violence has stopped, people from Myanmar are still crossing the border and coming to Bangladesh in hundreds and thousands every day narrating the stories of atrocities that are contributing to the continued influx of Rohingyas.

Shannon attended the partnership dialogue for the second time since its beginning in 2012.

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