French leaders have assured Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that France is firmly with Bangladesh in finding a permanent solution to the protracted Rohingya issue, said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen.
"We'll firmly remain beside you [Bangladesh] so that this crisis could end with a permanent solution," the foreign minister quoted the French leaders as saying.
He said this while briefing reporters here about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's recent talks with various high-profile leaders of France, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex.
The foreign minister said the Rohingya issue came up prominently during the meetings with all the French leaders, especially the French president.
During the meetings, the French leaders were informed by the Bangladesh side that the country was trying to have a permanent solution to the crisis through various channels.
"We've been trying bilaterally, trilaterally and multilaterally. Even we went to the International Criminal Court," said Foreign Minister Momen.
He mentioned that the problem was created by Myanmar and the solution also lies with them.
After the recent military coup in Myanmar, he said, Bangladesh did not have any direct discussion with its military rulers.
"We have told them [French leaders] that the western world still continues their businesses with them [Myanmar]. They need to stop it in a bid to create pressure on them," he said.
The French leaders, however, wanted to know whether this is possible to advance the dialogue for repatriation during the military government.
"We have told them that there were military governments in Myanmar in the 70s and the 90s when they had repatriated Rohingyas from Bangladesh," he said.
The foreign minister said some 253,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh in 1992 and 236,000 of them went back through dialogue and discussions. The same thing happened in the 1970s, Momen added.
"We have informed them [France] that there was no conflict in Rakhine state in the last four years. There's no violence there. So, it's the right time for the repatriation of Rohingyas," he said, adding that the French top leaders were apprised that Bangladesh has good relations with its neighbours.
Dr Momen said Myanmar had agreed to take the Rohingyas back.
"They had said they would provide guaranteed safety and security. They had also agreed to create a conducive environment for their dignified return. But they're implementing nothing," he said.
As the French leaders asked Bangladesh whether the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [Asean] had been informed, the foreign minister said, "Yes, we've informed Asean. They [France] said they've talked to Asean. They asked Asean to take a strong step."
Asean is slow and it cannot say anything on internal issues of any member country, the Bangladesh side said. "There was a long discussion [with French leaders on the Rohingya issue]."
Dr Momen said Bangladesh told the French leaders to take the issue at the security council.
PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim was, among others, present at the briefing.