Bangladesh and Myanmar on Wednesday 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.
The talks between senior officials of the two countries began with Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque leading the Bangladesh delegation.
Bangladesh Ambassador in Yangon M Sufiur Rahman, officials from the Foreign Ministry, Home Ministry, Prime Minister's Office are also attending in the meeting.
After lunch, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and Myanmar's Minister for State Counsellor's Office Kyauw Tint Swe will hold the second round of meeting.
On Thursday, the Foreign Minister will hold the final meeting with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar's administrative capital.
The meeting is primarily focusing on formation of a joint working group and related terms and conditions for it for the smooth operations of the repatriation process.
Bangladesh is likely to seek 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 wants the involvement of the international community, including the UN in verification process which is yet to be accepted by Myanmar side.
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, however, said restoring peace and stability in the troubled Rakhine State will not be possible overnight. "Nothing can be done overnight. But, we believe we'll be able to make a steady progress."
She 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 on Wednesday and Thursday.
"Chances look good. Let's see," he said expressing optimism over striking a deal with Myanmar on Rohingya repatriation process.
European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini has 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.
"There's a real possibility Myanmar and Bangladesh reaching a MoU and an agreement for the safe repatriation of refugees (Rohingyas)," she told a small group of reporters, including the UNB correspondent, after a photo session with ASEM Foreign Ministers.
She said the EU is supporting this process and will stand ready to accompany this process in the coming week.
In the morning, the EU top diplomat had informal meetings restricted with some ministers on the situation in Rakhine State.
"That was extremely encouraging. We discuss the need to start implementing the Annan Commission Report," she adding that she is very encouraged by "willingness and readiness" of the Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi going that direction.
Over 620,000 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 said it remains a strong and committed supporter to Myanmar's democratic transition. The humanitarian and human rights situation in Rakhine remains extremely serious, reads the deceleration, a copy of which UNB obtained.
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 16 October 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.