Ahead of ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Myanmar, Bangladesh wants to make the best use of high-level visits from a number countries, including China and Japan, to mount pressure on Myanmar and expedite talks for sending back Rohingyas to their homeland.
Bangladesh is also expecting louder voice from the international community at the meeting to be held at Myanmar capital on November 20-21 and greater pressure on Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis, Foreign Ministry sources here said.
The visits of the Foreign Ministers of China, Japan, Germany, Sweden and the European Union High Representative are taking place just after a key UN committee has overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Myanmar's authorities to end military operations against Rohingya Muslims, ensure their voluntary return from Bangladesh and grant them "full citizenship rights".
"These visits just after the third committee resolution will play a supportive role in getting help from China and Japan," State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam told UNB.
The same visit of the European Union Vice President, he said, will ultimately put pressure on Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis.
"I hope, their role will help expedite our bilateral initiative to send back Rohingyas to their homeland from Bangladesh," said the State Minister.
Earlier, the General Assembly's human rights committee approved the resolution sponsored by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation by a vote of 135-10 with 26 abstentions on Thursday.
Those voting "no" included Myanmar's close neighbour, China, as well as Russia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Laos.
The resolution now goes to the 193-member General Assembly for a final vote in December where its approval is virtually certain.
A diplomat who is in touch with the upcoming ASEM Foreign Ministers' meeting told UNB that the joint visit to Bangladesh, including Rohingya camps, before their participation in the ASEM FMs' meeting does put Myanmar on the spotlight for its failure to address the Rohingya issue.
"I can assume that the European leaders are very serious about this issue and they would definitely bring additional pressure on Myanmar authorities for Resolution of the issue," he said wishing to remain unnamed.
The diplomat said they might go for a separate Political Declaration, during the Summit or ask regional players to paly a more constructive role in resolving this protracted issue.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Bangladesh on November 18-19 during which Dhaka will seek Beijing 's support over the Rohingya issue.
"This is an important visit," a diplomat told UNB adding that both sides will discuss bilateral and regional issues with special emphasis on the Rohingya issue.
During the visit, the Chinese Foreign Minister will have a bilateral meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali.
He will also meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the visit, said a senior Foreign Ministry official here.
However, it could not be confirmed whether the Chinese Foreign Minister will visit Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister of Germany Sigmar Gabriel, Foreign Minister of Sweden Margot Wallström, Foreign Minister of Japan Taro Kono and High Representative of the EU Federica Mogherini will be there in Cox's Bazar for a day-long visit on November 19 to observe firsthand the plight of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh.
Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali will accompany Foreign Ministers of Germany, Sweden, Japan and the European Union High Representative in their Cox's Bazar visit to see the Rohingya situation on the ground on Sunday.
European Union High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini will visit Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar on November 19 and will meet representatives of humanitarian organisations.
In Dhaka, she will also meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to discuss the Rohingya crisis and the EU's support to the country in this context, as well as other areas of the EU-Bangladesh partnership.
The High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini's visit to Bangladesh takes place after the European Union co-hosted the UN Pledging Conference on Rohingya refugee crisis in Geneva on October 23 where the European Union's pledge of €30 million in new funding was the highest contribution among all the donors , and the EU and its Member States pledged more than half of the total amount of pledges.
The Foreign Ministers will go to Cox’s Bazar to see the Rohingya situations on the ground and have a better understanding.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali is willing to stay back in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw on November 22-23 following the ASEM Foreign Ministers’ meeting for negotiations and finalisation of a bilateral ‘arrangement’ on repatriation of the Rohingyas who crossed into Bangladesh amid persecution in their homeland.
Earlier, the European Union said they intend to seize the opportunity at the ASEM meeting to engage, in the margins thereof, in a constructive dialogue with the Myanmar government and will also continue to liaise with all Asian partners on the current issues.
The EU also encouraged its partners in Asean and the region to engage in this process.
There will be a solution to the Rohingya crisis through concerted diplomatic efforts though it does not look an easy job, said State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam.
“We don’t think this problem will be resolved easily. At the same time, we don’t think that this problem will prolong," he said.
He said the government is pushing for sending Rohingyas back to their homeland safely and with dignity. “They’ll surely take back their [Myanmar] nationals. We keep telling them and we’ll convey our message to Myanmar in a stronger way.”
Foreign Ministry officials said Bangladesh has been able to engage the international community fully and there are results too.
Regarding China’s position, Shahriar Alam said all (countries) do not necessarily speak for Bangladesh the way Bangladesh speaks as these countries also have bilateral relations with Myanmar.
The UN has urged the Myanmar government to grant full citizenship rights, in keeping with a transparent due process, to Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, including by reviewing the 1982 Citizenship Law and to ensure full protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Rohingyas and other ethnic and religious minorities.
Bangladesh has proposed a joint verification instead of the unilateral one placed by Myanmar to determine the qualification of repatriation of Rohingyas in a credible manner.
Bangladesh also proposed international engagement and involvement of UN agencies like IOM and UNHCR at all stages of repatriation process, said a senior official at the foreign ministry here.
Earlier, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to form a joint working group to start the repatriation process.
Bangladesh has differed with Myanmar over return of Myanmar nationals to their homeland from Bangladesh on the basis of 1992 Joint Statement saying the situation of 1992 and current situation is ‘entirely different’.
Over 620,000 Rohingyas have settled in Cox’s Bazar district since 25 August putting the total Rohingya population in Bangladesh over 1 million, officials said.