Bangladesh and Myanmar are expected to sign an ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’ in Nay Pyi Taw on Thursday as some vital points are still to agree on.
“We had a good discussion Wednesday. We hope to sign the deal tomorrow (Thursday).It's now at the final stage,” Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali told UNB at hotel lobby after a meeting with Myanmar’s Minister for State Counsellor’s office Kyauw Tint Swe on Wednesday.
The two ministers led their respective sides at the meeting that started at 5:10pm and ended at 6:20pm (local time).
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, Bangladesh Ambassador in Yangon M Sufiur Rahman and representatives from Home Ministry and Prime Minister's Office also attended the meeting.
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’.
Another lengthy meeting of senior officials was held at the same venue since 9:30am on the same day.
The Foreign Minister will hold the final talks with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday.
Bangladesh and Myanmar began their long-sought two-day talks with high hopes that it will yield outcomes to sign an MoU enabling both the countries to start the repatriation process of all the Rohingyas from Bangladesh to their homeland Myanmar.
The international community is also watching the talks and its subsequent outcome as they want to see the safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas as quickly as possible.
Bangladesh in its senior officials meeting raised the issue of keeping a provision for a timeframe over completion of Rohingyas repatriation, a senior official told UNB.
"If things go well at the meeting, both sides will sign the MoU on Thursday," said the official adding that the two sides will minimise gap addressing differences, if any.
Bangladesh also wants the involvement of the international community, including the UN in verification process which is yet to be accepted by Myanmar side, the official said.
It could not be known whether Myanmar agreed on timeframe and the involvement of UN agencies in repatriation process which Myanmar was apparently opposing.
Myanmar did not meet full expectation of Bangladesh on timeframe of Rohingya repatriation as it agrees on starting time but not on ending point, a senior diplomat told UNB.
"We agreed on many things though our expectation is not met fully. It's not possible in any negotiations," he said wishing to remain unnamed.
Another diplomat said Myanmar wants to start repatriation within the next two months if the deal is signed.
He said Bangladesh wants to end repatriation of Rohingyas by one year though Myanmar keeps it open-end without giving specific timeframe for completion.
On involvement of UN agencies in repatriation process, Myanmar shows a bit soft position but nothing will be legally binding, an official told UNB.
Amid mounting international pressure, Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday said they have planned to sign an MoU with Bangladesh this week which will enable them to start the repatriation process of all the Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar.
"What we're trying to do is to sign an MoU that will enable us to start the repatriation of all those refugees who've gone over the border," she told a crowded press conference at Myanmar International Convention Centre here.
Suu Kyi said the Asian and European countries are keen to help Myanmar in its efforts to bring about peace and stability in Rakhine as quickly as possible.
Bangladesh is in talks with Myanmar bilaterally apart from international engagement on the safe and voluntary return of Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh in the past months.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali who led the Bangladesh delegation at the ASEM Foreign Ministers' overstayed here to further discuss the repatriation process with Myanmar leaders.
European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, earlier, expressed her hope that Bangladesh and Myanmar will reach a decision to sign an MoU and an agreement on safe repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh.
She said the EU is supporting this process and will stand ready to accompany this process in the coming week.
Over 622,000 Rohingyas have crossed the border and taken shelter in Cox's Bazar district since August 25.
Meanwhile, the European Union has called for steps to ensure voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingyas to their places of origin in Rakhine State.
"Conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified return to their places of origin have to be put in place," said the High Representative of the EU in a declaration on Myanmar.
In the context of the 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on November 20-21, the European Union welcomed the way forward outlined by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, starting by swiftly finalising a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh on return, and proceeding with implementing recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
The EU reiterated its call for the immediate end to all violence and the establishment of non-discriminatory rule of law and civilian administration in Rakhine.
The restoration of humanitarian access for the United Nations and international aid agencies is critical, it said.
Recalling the Council's conclusions on Myanmar of October 16, 2017, the European Union called on the government of Myanmar to ensure accountability for those responsible for committing atrocities.
The foreign ministers of Asian and European countries, in general, have agreed in many areas on Rohingya issue and asked for immediate cessation of hostilities, halting of outflow, early return of externally displaced Rohingyas from Bangladesh.
They also asked for implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission for durable solutions.