John Kerry to meet Bangladesh Foreign Minister today



Washington: US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni on Friday, where they are likely to discuss bilateral issues, recent political protests and the building collapse in Dhaka that killed more than 1,100 factory workers.

This will be the first meeting between the two leaders after Kerry became the US Secretary of State in February.

"We are looking forward to discuss various issues further when Secretary Kerry meets Foreign Minister Dipu Moni at the State Department," a State Department spokesperson told a news agency.

"We have consistently urged the government of Bangladesh to allow workers to exercise their right to freely associate, including to form unions of their choice and allow organisations that seek to protect workers' rights to operate freely," the spokesperson said on Thursday.

"The United States is encouraged by the Bangladeshi government's recent efforts to increase the registration of qualified, independent unions," the spokesperson said.

"In addition, we support labour law amendments approved by cabinet in Bangladesh that will allow them to improve respect for freedom of association," the spokesperson said.

Earlier this week, Moni also met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and discussed the current situation in Bangladesh.

During the meeting at the UN headquarters, Ban expressed his condolences for the loss of life and suffering caused by the recent collapse of garment factories.

"The Secretary-General stressed the critical importance for political leaders of Bangladesh to engage in constructive dialogue with a view to defusing tensions and resolving differences, including on governance arrangements during the upcoming election period," a UN statement said.

Ban also reiterated increasing concern about the recent wave of violence and underlined the need for all concerned to respect the law and express their views peacefully.

Meanwhile, a delegation of American Apparel and Footwear Association met Moni and other Bangladeshi officials to discuss how they can address the critical issues that led to the recent tragedies in Bangladesh's garment industry.

"Our dialogue was very constructive, as we begin high-level discussions with all apparel industry stakeholders in search of practical and sustainable long-term solutions to the serious worker safety issues in Bangladesh," the AAFA president and CEO Kevin M Burke, said.

The North American Bangladesh Worker Safety Working Group, a collaboration of five US and Canadian apparel and retail trade associations, yesterday reinforced its commitment to improving worker safety in Bangladesh and outlined a broad set of proposals to further that goal.

PTI