Foreign Minister Dr Momen meets counterpart British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss

Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dr A. K. Abdul Momen in a bilateral meeting with his British counterpart, Elizabeth Truss, proposed that the United Kingdom, a global leader in justice and human rights could consider resettling one lac Myanmar Rohingyas currently sheltered in Bangladesh to give them a better life and lessen the unfair Rohingya burden on Bangladesh.

British Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss thanked Bangladesh’s generous hosting of the Rohingyas and responded that “While the UK could look into it, the best solution to the Rohingya crisis, however, lies in their safe and sustainable return to their homeland in Myanmar.”  

Foreign Minister Dr Momen briefed, Secretary Truss, about the status of the protracted Rohingya crisis and stalemate in the process of their safe and sustainable returns to Myanmar in the absence of political commitment from the Myanmar government. Expressing concern of the British Government at the current political turmoil in Myanmar, Rt Hon Liz Truss reiterated the UK’s continued commitment to resolve the Rohingya crisis and assured that together with the ASEAN and fellow G7 countries, the UK would put increased pressure on Myanmar for a sustainable resolution of the Rohingya crisis. 

In this connection, giving historic references to earlier instances of en masse influx of Rohingyas into Bangladesh in the 70s and 90s, and their subsequent voluntary repatriation by Myanmar through agreements and accords with Bangladesh,  Foreign Minister Dr Momen noted, “Myanmar took them back as they were under sanctions at that time by the West, which is not the present case, while the UK and other western countries continue to invest heavily into Myanmar, despite living proof of their persecution of Rohingyas and adjudication of their justice at the ICJ”. Dr Momen also called upon the UK government to create pressure on Myanmar for the immediate repatriation of their Rohingyas from Bangladesh which simply cannot continue to take the burden of 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals any longer. The UK which has made USD2.5 billion worth of investments into Myanmar just over the past 3 years and more than 500 million of bilateral trade, also needs to create pressure on Myanmar Authorities to take back their Rohingyas, Dr Momen noted.

To mark 50 years of Bangladesh-UK diplomatic relations, both the Ministers welcomed the proposals by the two foreign offices to jointly organise a Global Girls Education Summit, a climate leaders’ dialogue, and a Rohingya Conference in their capitals.

In post-Brexit trade relations with the UK, one of Bangladesh’s largest trade and investment partners, Foreign Minister Dr Momen sought an extension of the UK’s zero-duty GSP facility beyond 2029, especially given the losses suffered by Bangladesh’s apparel industry owing to post-pandemic cancellations, non-payments by UK retailers as well as the current cost of living index hike. The two Ministers further agreed that under the Bangladesh-UK Tarde and Investment Dialogue the two countries should explore enhanced trade partnership and a future FTA.

Dr Momen invited Secretary Truss to visit Bangladesh at the earliest opportunity, especially during the historic year of Bangladesh-UK diplomatic relations. Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem was present during the meeting that took place on Sunday in Kigali on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Summit on 24-25 June 2022.

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