China says it is ready to facilitate Bangladesh-Myanmar dialogue to solve Rohingya crisis

China is willing to facilitate a dialogue between Bangladesh and Myanmar to solve the Rohingya crisis.

Published : 18 Nov 2017, 04:50 PM
Updated : 18 Nov 2017, 08:34 PM

Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed Beijing's eagerness to facilitate the dialogue during a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Ganabhaban in Dhaka on Saturday, the Prime Minister's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim told reporters.

"We're willing to facilitate the dialogue between Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve Rohingya crisis," Karim quoted Wang as saying.

Karim said the Chinese foreign minister acknowledged that the Rohingya crisis was a "big challenge for Bangladesh".

Wang also described the crisis as an "internal problem of Myanmar", Karim said.

Photo: PID

China is one of the 10 countries that voted against a recent UN resolution on Myanmar.

One consideration for China is that, according to Wang, his country does not want the Rohingya issue to overshadow or slow down the progress of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC) initiative, Karim said.

China, a longtime ally of Myanmar, has major investment in the country.

It has backed Myanmar in conducting an army operation against insurgents that has forced over 600,000 Rohingyas to cross the border into Bangladesh in around three months.

Bangladesh already sheltered around 400,000 Rohingyas before the latest exodus started.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have already held discussions over repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal visited Myanmar last month to discuss the repatriation process following the visit by a minister of Myanmar de facto leader Aung  San Suu Kyi.

The two governments agreed to form a joint working group to repatriate the Rohingyas, officials said.

At a recent programme in Dhaka, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque said Bangladesh was likely to sign an agreement with Myanmar 'soon' on repatriation of the Rohingyas.

He said the two countries would seal the deal after forming the joint working group following Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali’s visit to Myanmar by the end of this month to attend the 13th Asia–Europe Meeting or ASEM Summit.

The prime minister's aide said Sheikh Hasina reiterated her call to the international community, including China, to mount pressure on Myanmar to take back their nationals from Bangladesh.

"Myanmar will have to take back them with safety, security and dignity for a durable solution to the problem," Karim quoted her as saying.

"We've good relations with Myanmar, but the Rohingyas are their people, and they will have to take them back," she added.

Women and children make up the majority of Rohingya refugees entering Bangladesh. Photo: mostafigur rahman

The prime minister narrated the plight of the Rohingya people, mainly women and children. "Bangladesh gave them shelter on purely humanitarian grounds," she said.

She also reaffirmed Bangladesh's zero-tolerance policy against terrorism.

"It's our decision not to allow anyone to use Bangladesh's soil for carrying out insurgent activities in the neighbouring countries," she said.

The Chinese foreign minister recalled Sheikh Hasina's visits to China in 2010 and 2014 as well as the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Bangladesh.

He said he is now touring Bangladesh to see the progress of Strategic Partner Cooperation that the two countries agreed to it during the Xi's visit last year.

The Chinese foreign minister conveyed their president's greetings to the prime minister.

Speaking about Bangladesh-China economic cooperation, Wang said his country's concessional loan to Bangladesh crossed $5 billion.

"China wants to help Bangladesh more under the South-South cooperation," he said.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM's International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi, Principal Secretary Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, Bangladesh Ambassador to China Fazlul Karim and Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ma Mingqiang were present at the meeting.

China has provided Bangladesh with relief for the Rohingyas

Later, in a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart, Wang said as a friend of both countries, Beijing would 'not be partial to any side in solving the Rohingya crisis peacefully', according to the foreign ministry.

After the meeting with Ali, according to Reuters, Wang said in a press briefing at the Chinese Embassy that his country wanted a bilateral solution to the issue.

"The international community should not complicate the situation," he is quoted as saying.

"Actions in the United Nations Security Council must help Bangladesh-Myanmar bilateral cooperation to resolve the problem peacefully", Wang said.

"It is a complex situation and needs a comprehensive solution. Economic development of Rakhine State is needed. China is ready to help," he added.

The Chinese foreign minister's visit to Bangladesh comes two days after the UN revived a resolution on Myanmar that was dropped last year due to the country's progress on human rights.

In the resolution, the UN General Assembly's Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, called on Myanmar to end military operations that have "led to the systematic violation and abuse of human rights" of Rohingya Muslims in the country's Rakhine state.

A total of 135 countries voted in favour with 10 against, and 26 abstentions on the draft text that also asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy on Myanmar. China was among the 10 countries that voted against the resolution. 

Wang is scheduled to leave Bangladesh for Myanmar on Sunday to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting or ASEM.