Foreign ministry officials told this correspondent that since the last influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh in 2017, China has been stressing on resolving the crisis through bilateral talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar. As part of this effort, China arranged a meeting with Bangladesh and Myanmar foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2018.

At the meeting, held in presence of US secretary general Antonio Guterres, a tripartite committee was formed for the start of the repatriation process. However, despite a couple of meetings, no progress has been made on the issue. Without consulting the Rohingyas, 22 August 2019 was even fixed as the date to start repatriation, but ultimately not a single Rohingya could be sent back to Rakhine.

China’s mediation has come to a standstill too. The foreign minister on Sunday summoned the Chinese ambassador to discuss the matter.

Elaborating on the discussions with the Chinese ambassador, AK Abdul Momen said that the Rohingya issue has been stalled for a long time. The talks could not progress due to COVID-19. The Chinese ambassador also expressed his concern in this regard.

China agrees about the repatriation issue. Even after agreeing to take the Rohingyas back, Myanmar is not doing so. China expressed its regret in this regard, and said they would discuss the matter with Myanmar.

“We said to put pressure on Myanmar,” AK Momen told the media, “The matter was overlooked because of the elections, but we said it would be good to raise the issue during the elections.”

Our main aim is repatriation. We don’t want assistance
AK Abdul Momen, foreign minister

The foreign minister said that the Chinese ambassador had proposed a meeting of foreign ministers of the three countries in Beijing. The meeting would basically discuss the latest situation of the Rohingya crisis. China would fix the schedule of the meeting.

Abdul Momen said, “We are willing to join the meeting, but I told the Chinese ambassador that they should arrange for Myanmar’s state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to also join. It won’t do if she doesn’t come. The ambassador said he will discuss the matter. He submitted a proposal concerning the meeting.”

Four-party initiative for discussions

The US, UK, European Union and UNHCR have taken initiative for an international discussion on ‘continued assistance for Rohingya refugees’. Bangladesh’s foreign minister AK Abdul Momen has been invited to attend.

When asked about the matter. AK Abdul Momen said that he had been invited to join the meeting, but still was not apprised of the details. “However, I know this much that they will discuss humanitarian assistance for the Rohingyas for quite a few years,” he said, “But we are not eager about in that. Our main aim is repatriation. We don’t want assistance. The matter they are raising does not match our objective. The organisers have said that the countries in the region will give shelter to the Rohingyas. But we feel that the matter is not just a regional one. It is a global problem.”

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