FM goes to Riyadh to know details
Dhaka is sending the foreign minister to Riyadh to know the detailed outline of the Saudi Arabia-led 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism amid serious criticism over joining the alliance.
The foreign ministry on December 15 however claimed Bangladesh decided to join a Centre in Riyadh to coordinate efforts against terrorism and extremism. The role of the Centre would be coordinating efforts, exchanging experiences and providing support where needed, said the ministry in a press statement.
But, according to a Saudi government statement, the 34 countries have decided about forming a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations centre based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations.
Following severe criticism at home for joining such a military coalition with no UN mandate, diplomatic sources said the foreign ministry immediately sought the minister's visit to Riyadh to meet his Saudi counterpart for further details.
The Saudi government has meanwhile responded positively and invited Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali to hold a bilateral meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir in Riyadh tomorrow, insiders said.
Confirming the visit, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque at a press conference yesterday said all the issues would be discussed during the visit.
He however did not specify if the issue of the much-talked-about Saudi-led military alliance would be on the meeting agenda.
The foreign minister's visit coincides with heightened tension as Saudi Arabia yesterday cut ties with Iran in response to storming of its Tehran embassy in an escalating row between the rival Middle East powers over Riyadh's execution of a Shia Muslim cleric.
The foreign secretary did not respond to a question about Bangladesh's statement on evolving Saudi-Iran relations and the subsequent visit of the foreign minister to Saudi Arabia.
He said the foreign minister's visit was not a sudden one and was under process already.
Asked about 'sending' manpower to Saudi Arabia on a large-scale, the foreign secretary said the issue would be 'prominently' on the agenda during the meeting.
The foreign ministry also officially announced yesterday that Minister Ali would pay an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on January 5-7 and the two foreign ministers were expected to “review the whole gamut of bilateral relations between the two countries as well as exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interests.”
The ministry in a press release also said the minister was also expected to have a meeting with the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah.
He is also expected to meet the Bangladesh expatriates residing in the KSA and exchange views with them.
The minister is scheduled to return to Dhaka on January 8.