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Bangladesh and Myanmar on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to repatriate Rohingya refugees but without any time frame on completing the process.
The two neighbours concluded the MoU following a meeting between foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali and Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in the morning at Suu Kyi’s office.
Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali and Myanmar’s minister for state counsellor’s office Kyauw Tint Swe signed the instrument.
They also exchanged ratification of boundary agreement 1998.
Minister Mahmood Ali made the disclosure of signing the ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’ after they reached a much-sought consensus on the Rohingya repatriation.
Ali’s meeting with Suu Kyi began at 10:00am (Myanmar time) and it lasted for 45 minutes.
Over 622,000 Rohingyas have crossed the border and taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar district since 25 August amid persecution by Myanmar military in their Rakhine State.
Referring to the influx of Rohingyas to Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a programme on the outskirts of Dhaka on Thursday that these Myanmar nationals are a burden on Bangladesh and urged Myanmar to start their repatriation soon.
Bangladesh in its senior officials meeting here on Wednesday raised the issue of keeping a provision for a timeframe over completion of the Rohingya repatriation, a senior official told agency.
Bangladesh also sought involvement of the international community, including the UN agencies in verification process.
Myanmar did not meet Bangladesh’s full expectation on the repatriation timeframe as it only agrees on starting time but not the ending point, a senior diplomat said.
“We’ve agreed on many things though our expectation is not met fully. It’s not possible in any negotiations,” he said wishing to remain unnamed.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a programme on the outskirts of Dhaka on Thursday that these Myanmar nationals are a burden on Bangladesh and urged Myanmar to start their repatriation soon
Another diplomat said Myanmar wants to start the repatriation within the next two months once the deal is signed.
He said Bangladesh wants to end the Rohingya repatriation by one year though Myanmar keeps it as an open-end one without giving any specific timeframe for completion.
On involvement of UN agencies in repatriation process, Myanmar shows a bit soft position but nothing will be legally-binding one, an official told.
Bangladesh and Myanmar, however, agreed on formation of joint working group at foreign-secretary level to start the repatriation process of all Rohingyas.
Earlier, the foreign minister and the Myanmar’s Minister for State Counsellor’s office had a marathon meeting when they discussed various issues of bilateral interest, including the Rohingya issue.
Soon after the one-to-one lengthy meeting, the foreign minister attended the ministerial meeting on ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’.
Senior officials Meeting was co-chaired by Permanent secretary of the ministry of foreign affairs of Myanmar U Myint Thu and Bangladesh foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque. ■