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US president Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate change, John Kerry, will arrive in Dhaka on Friday, on a few hours’ visit to Bangladesh. He is basically coming to Dhaka from Delhi to hand over president Biden’s invitation to prime minister Sheikh Hasina to attend the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate.

However, officials in Dhaka expect that a visit from any representative of the new White House administration will contribute to further strengthening ties between the two countries.

Speaking to this correspondent on Tuesday, foreign ministry officials said John Kerry will arrive in Dhaka from Delhi by a special aircraft on Friday afternoon. The former US secretary of state John Kerry will first meet foreign minister AK Abdul Momen at the state guest house Padma. He may then meet with minister for environment, forests and climate change Md Shahab Uddin at the same venue. He will then call upon the prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her office, and hand over president Joe Biden’s invitation to join the Leaders Summit on Climate.

After taking over as the US president, on 27 January Joe Biden declared that he would organise a summit aimed at increasing the cooperation of the member countries of the world’s major economies in order to tackle the threat of climate change. The summit is to be held virtually on 22 and 23 April. Leaders of 40 countries, including Russia, China, Japan, UK, Germany, France and India, have been invited to attend.

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Dhaka’s diplomats said that the main focus of John Kerry’s brief trip is climate change, but the Rohingya crisis and cooperation between Bangladesh and the US may also be raised during the discussions.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Monday, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen said, “After Joe Biden took over as US president, this is the first time that a senior representative of his administration is visiting Bangladesh.” He hoped that Kerry’s visit would contribute to strengthening Bangladesh-US ties.

Bangladesh was among the countries most affected by climate change. At the same time, Bangladesh also had much contribution in tackling climate change. Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen had spoken to John Kerry twice on the issue. The US wants Bangladesh by its side in the initiatives regarding climate change.

About topics to be discussed other than climate change, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen said, “As John Kerry is the US president’s special envoy for climate change, perhaps all issues pertaining to relations between the two countries may not be discussed. However, certain issues will arise in context. The Rohingya issue may arise in context of the environment. The environment of a certain region of our country is being harmed because of the Rohingya.”

Speaking about the US stand on climate change, the Bangladesh foreign secretary said, “We can see a big change in the US mindset. Donald Trump had walked out of the Paris Agreement and distanced himself from all discussions in this regard. But the US stand has completely turned around after Joe Biden took over. The US is, generally speaking, always reliable regarding multilateral cooperation in the international process. We see that the US has returned to that position.”

Several diplomats, speaking to this correspondent on Wednesday, said Bangladesh may raise certain issues, basically related to climate adaptation, during John Kerry’s Dhaka visit. For example, in September 2020 a climate adaptation centre of South Asia was set up in Bangladesh. Bangladesh looks to the US for funding the centre and will raise the matter during Kerry’s visit. The US has spoken of setting up a 100 billion US dollar fund worldwide to tackle the threat of climate change. Bangladesh wants funds for tackling the climate threat and for climate adaptation. Also, Bangladesh may seek US assistance for the government’s climate change trust fund.

Bangladesh wants to organise an event jointly with the US at the 26th climate summit to be held in Glasgow, UK, November this year. Sources say this issue will be raised during Kerry’s Dhaka trip. Bangladesh may also seek technical assistance in waste management as well as cooperation in solar and other forms of renewable energy.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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