Myanmar is willing to take back Rohingya refugees who fled to southeastern Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi foreign minister said Monday, after ending day-long talks with a trio of diplomats from Naypyidaw.
No timeframe was set for the repatriation process, nor did officials clarify how many of the 900,000 Rohingya refugees sheltering in Bangladesh would be able to participate.
“Myanmar has proposed taking back the Rohingya refugees. For the supervision of overall repatriation process, the two sides have agreed to form a Joint Working Group,” Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali told reporters at the Padma State Guest House in Dhaka, where the meeting took place under tight security.
Kyaw Tint Swe, the minister for the Office of the State Counsellor of Myanmar, led Naypyidaw’s delegation, but did not speak to reporters. The Myanmar delegation was due to return home early Tuesday, after arriving in Bangladesh early Monday.
Ali said the two sides had reached a “consensus” on the issue in their first high-level diplomatic encounter since violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state beginning in late August drove half a million new refugees into Bangladesh, triggering a humanitarian crisis.
“We, both the sides, want to resolve the problem in a peaceful way. And both the sides have reached a consensus,” said Ali.
On multiple occasions in recent weeks, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to complain about incursions by Burmese military aircraft into Bangladeshi airspace as well as reports that Myanmar troops were planting land-mines along the frontier to prevent Rohingya from fleeing.
Officials close to the negotiations told BenarNews that neither of these issues was raised during Monday’s talks.
“One meeting will not resolve all problems … No timeframe has been set. But it [the Joint Working Group] will be formed very soon,” Ali said, adding that he was “very optimistic” about future talks between the two neighboring countries.
“Very fruitful talks took place. Bangladesh reiterated its zero tolerance on terrorism,” he said, apparently referring to insurgents from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) whose attacks on police outposts in Rakhine state on Aug. 25 resulted in a brutal military crackdown.
Full story: BenarNews
Kamran Reza Chowdhury
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