Bimstec secretary general Shahidul Islam on Monday said that there was no scope to formally discuss the Rohingya issue at the fourth Bimstec Summit held in Kathmandu in August 30-31 as no member state of the regional body proposed it.
‘The Rohingya issue was not included in the agenda of the summit. So, there was no scope for holding discussions on it,’ he said while responding to a UNB question at a post-summit press conference held at its headquarters.
The secretary general said that there was no proposal or request from any country either include or not to include the Rohingya issue in the agenda.
Shahidul said that Nepal had prepared the agenda of the summit as the host which was circulated among the member states and accepted by all.
He said that the summit was held after a long gap with the hope to strengthen regional cooperation through Bimstec.
‘We feel that Bangladesh and Myanmar have shown diplomatic maturity by not raising the issue (Rohingya),’ Shahidul said, adding that nobody denied the existence of the problem.
He expressed optimism that Bangladesh and Myanmar, who remained engaged, could resolve the issue together.
The Bimstec secretary general said that it was possible to work on the issues on which member states had a clear consensus.
He mentioned that progress in avenues where member states had consensus should not suffer for the avenues where there was lack of consensus. ‘We will continue to make progress on trade investment, connectivity, energy and technology. These should go on.’
Shahidul said that the member states wanted to continue collaboration although there were differences of opinion in some areas.
He said that the Bimstec Secretariat had full confidence in the sagacity and diplomatic maturity demonstrated by the member states.
The secretary general said that if the member states could maintain this level of maturity, no issue could impede the progress of Bimstec.
Responding to a question on the conclusion of Free Trade Area negotiations, he said that trade negotiations could be very difficult and it took time to get results.
He said that the Bimstec leaders had renewed their commitment to an early conclusion of the FTA negotiations and expected to conclude trade and goods component within 2019.
They directed the Bimstec Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting and its subsidiary bodies, including the Trade Negotiating Committee, to expedite the finalisation of all related agreements on the Bimstec FTA as early as possible, according to the summit declaration.
They expressed their satisfaction on the progress of negotiations on the Agreement on Trade in Goods and the Agreement on Customs Cooperation and also directed the respective ministries and agencies to participate regularly in TNC meetings.
The member states agreed to revitalise the activities of Bimstec Business Forum and Bimstec Economic Forum to further strengthen government-private sector cooperation for the promotion of trade and investment and task the expert group on Bimstec visa matters to continue negotiations for the finalisation of the modalities for the Bimstec visa facilitation.
The Bimstec secretary general termed the summit as a very successful one as it reviewed the achievements of the past 20 years.
He said that they would prepare a follow-up chart on the basis of the summit declaration.
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