UN envoy Oscar Fernandez-Taranco left Dhaka on Wednesday evening after having brought the bickering politicians to negotiating table and advocating home-grown solutions.
His arrival last Friday evening, nearly seven months apart, had been at a time when the Jan 5 elections process was in progress with the major opposition BNP staying away.Violence has been widespread with the opposition camp’s continuous road, railway and waterway blockades.The UN Resident Coordination in Dhaka Neal Walker before his arrival in a statement said the UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs would encourage dialogue to create a conducive environment for the Jan 5 elections.It took at least 22 known meetings during his visit before he first disclosed on Tuesday that the two parties had met and held talks.He extended his stay by a day and held a news conference a few hours before leaving Dhaka, where he said it was now the ‘responsibility’ of the parties to continue talks.He said the United Nations’ first aim was to get the two parties sit for talks. Solution was still possible, but that must come from the two parties, he said at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.“I firmly believe there is a 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,” he continued.“Bangladeshis expect them to work together constructively to decrease tensions and to find mutually agreeable solutions for free, fair, inclusive and non-violent elections,” he said.
The Argentine, who has 25 years of UN experience in dealing “increasingly complex” situations, said he was “very happy” with his Dhaka mission outcome.But he said it still remained “critical to reduce tension and to continue to engage in constructive dialogue” 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 elections schedule”.Fernandez-Taranco would not go into the “specifics” of the dialogue and whether the elections that the BNP has declared to boycott would be held on Jan 5.He said in the process of dialogue the parties would find solutions to hold “free, fair, inclusive and credible” elections and that both parties agreed to hold a third round of dialogue.Top leaders of the Awami League and BNP have already met twice over the past two days.The emissary continued that it was “very constructive” and “they have been addressing how to reduce tension and build confidence so that many issues can be discussed and come to an agreement”.He said all the issues that were relevant to the current situation had been “raised and discussed constructively” and that both sides would be “responsible” in trying to “keep their space of dialogue alive”.The UN envoy said both sides made concrete proposals and they would go to discuss them with their leaders and come back. “This is how a dialogue takes place”.“This is how representative of parties engage,” he said and added that there had to be solutions and “home-grown” solutions.He, however, said he strongly believed that a solution to the current deadlock was still possible, “if there is political will, leadership and an attitude of compromise”.He will report back to the UN chief Ban Ki-moon who called Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier in the day and hoped that Bangladesh will hold general elections as per its Constitution.Fernandez-Taranco extolled Bangladesh’s progress and said everybody knew the consequences if the dialogue failed.“Bangladesh is an important member state of the United Nations. It has a powerful voice in shaping the global development agenda beyond 2015”.During his stay, apart from his meeting with the leaders of the two parties, he had meetings with the two top leaders –Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia.He met Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad.He said he had conveyed to everybody he met the UN Secretary-General’s extreme concerns about the rising levels of violence and majority of this violence victims were innocent civilians including women and children.“I strongly urge everybody I met to exercise restraint, uphold human rights, and to respect the rule of law,” he said.The current political crisis was exacting “a heavy human, social and economic toll on Bangladesh”, he observed.Fernandez-Taranco said his top priority was stopping violence, and stopping unnecessary killing and deaths, reducing tensions and building space for dialogue.