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AL, BNP agree to continue with talks: UN official

Staff Correspondent

The ruling and the opposition party, which met under a UN mediation on Tuesday, agreed to continue with dialogues in the spirit of goodwill and compromise and work together constructively to ease tension and build confidence, UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernández-Taranco said.
Fernández-Taranco made the announcement at the Sonargaon Hotel in the evening after a meeting with delegations of the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in a house at Gulshan in the capital in the afternoon.
The Awami League’s general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam and he acting BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir led the party delegations to the meeting.
Fernández-Taranco said that he had extended his tour of Dhaka by 24 hours and he would be able to answer all questions at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
‘Today represents an important moment in the current context… I want to take the opportunity to applaud the decision to sit down and seize this important opportunity. This shows the political leadership’s responsibility and courage. It is also an answer to the expectations of the people of Bangladesh,’ he said.
The visiting UN team after meeting major political parties and election stakeholders on Monday night could convince both the parties to sit across the table.
The meeting was held in a house at Gulshan where Syed Ashraful Islam, Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed and Gowher Rizvi were on the Awami League side and
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain, Abdul Moin Khan and Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury were on the BNP side.
Sources in both the parties said they had softened their previous stance at the meeting but details of the meeting could not be immediately known.
Immediately after the meeting, all the BNP leaders went to the party chief’s house to inform Khaleda Zia of the meeting outcome.
The BNP in a statement said that the meeting had been held at the house of Neal Walker, the UN resident coordinator in Dhaka. It said that both the parties had agreed to continue with dialogues to hold free, fair, acceptable and inclusive elections.
The BNP also thanked the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon for initiating a move to end the ongoing uncertainty.
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain at night told reporters there were introductory discussions between the two parties at the meeting with the Awami League to find out a solution to the present crisis before of the next general elections and the discussion would continue.
The next round of discussion would be held very soon, Mosharraf said hoping that it might be mediated by the UN resident coordinator in Dhaka.
Asked whether the elections schedule would be changed, Mosharraf said that primary discussions had taken place on Tuesday and it was not an appropriate time to comment on it.
Asked about what was discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, he said that they discussed how to hold free, fair, credible and inclusive elections by creating a level playing field for all.
The Awami League in a statement said that the AL delegation urged the BNP to stop enforcing general strike, blockade, damaging public property, killing people in arson attacks and bombings and to ensure security of lives and property of people to create a congenial atmosphere for dialogues. The Awami League said that no discussion would become fruitful if such anarchy was not stopped.
The statement, signed by the party’s office secretary Abdus Sobhan Golap, said that the BNP at the meeting had demanded release of its detained leaders and activists and raised the issue of the election-time government.
In reply, the Awami League delegation said that the detained leaders of the BNP would be released and discussion on election-time government could be held only if the BNP could ensure that they would stop their subversive activities in the name of enforcing strike and blockade.
The Jatiya Party in a letter to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon requested the UN to play a role in constituting a polls-time government headed by a person acceptable to all.
The party chairman, HM Ershad, requested the UN secretary general to ensure a UN role in holding inclusive elections, Bobby Hajjaj, special adviser to HM Ershad, told New Age on Tuesday.
The letter was handed to members on the UN team that Fernández Taranco is leading, Hajjaj claimed.
The UN move to mediate among parties followed violent demonstrations because of the rigid stance by both the ruling and the opposition camp over the next parliamentary elections.
Fernández-Taranco met the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in the parliament,, the chief election commissioner and other political leaders.
He wanted to know whether it would be possible to defer the polls schedule and the chief election commissioner told him that it was possible if the UN could broker a consensus between the ruling and the opposition camp.
With the elections less than a month away, scheduled for January 5, the Jatiya Party, a key partner in the ruling Awami League alliance until recently, announced a boycott of the elections saying that if all parties did not join, elections would no be acceptable.

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