The British government will shortly lift the ban imposed around two years ago on direct air cargo from Dhaka to London.
The UK is making the move as it is highly pleased with the progress made in addressing the security concerns at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
“It's all but done,” the visiting British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson said in a statement following a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart AH Mahmood Ali at the state guesthouse Padma last night.
“The Aviation authority in Bangladesh and the government of Bangladesh made huge efforts to sort out the issue and we are very pleased to note the progress.
“…we are on the verge of resumption [of the direct air cargo from Dhaka to London],” he said.
Several diplomatic sources also told The Daily Star last night that the UK government finalised its decision to lift the ban and it had to complete some internal bureaucratic formalities before making a formal announcement to this end.
Dhaka is considering the announcement as a huge diplomatic success as it will help the European Union, Australia and Germany follow the United Kingdom's decision, added the sources.
The British government on March 8, 2016 slapped the ban after the airport in Dhaka had failed to meet some international security requirements.
The European Union, where more than 54 percent of Bangladesh's exports are headed, also declared the airport a “red zone” due to insufficient safety and security measures, following the lead of the UK, Australia and Germany.
With the ban in place, the EU-bound cargo airlines from Bangladesh have to rescreen goods in a third country, preferably in Dubai, Qatar, Thailand and India.
The ban caused a huge loss for Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Biman was the only carrier that operated direct cargo flights between Dhaka and London. Before the ban, Biman used to earn Tk 40 lakh to Tk 50 lakh for each flight from carrying cargoes. Some 25 to 30 tonnes of goods, mostly apparel and vegetables were shipped in each of the direct flights to London.
After the ban was imposed, the Bangladesh government appointed British company Redline Aviation Security Limited Seven to meet the safety requirements at the airport.
While speaking briefly to the media after the meeting last night, the British secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs appreciated the success of Bangladesh in various areas and laid emphasis on “free press and free, fair and democratic elections.”
“We want to intensify our bilateral relations,” Johnson said, adding that the UK wants more trade with Bangladesh in the days to come.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, British High Commissioner in Dhaka Alison Blake, Director General (Europe Wing) of the Foreign Ministry Mohammad Khorshed Alam Khastagir, among others, were present at the meeting.
Johnson's visit to Bangladesh is the first official visit by a British foreign secretary in 10 years. He met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina prior to his meeting with Foreign Minister Ali.
The foreign secretary will also visit a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar today to see first-hand the conditions of the Rohingyas, who have fled Myanmar following ethnic cleansing.
He will discuss with the Myanmar government the steps needed to enable them to return to their homes.
In Myanmar, he will hold talks with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and visit northern Rakhine.
While making his joint press statement along with Ali, Johnson said the international community needs to work hard on how to solve the Rohingya issue outside the border – in Myanmar.
He said they all wanted to see safe, dignified and secure returns of Rohingyas to Myanmar.
“The plight of the Rohingya and the suffering they have had to endure is one of the most shocking humanitarian disasters of our time. This is a man-made tragedy that could be resolved with the right political will, tolerance and cooperation from all those involved.
“I want to see and hear for myself the terrible things these people have been through, and I will be talking to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other regional leaders about how we can work together to resolve this appalling crisis”.
He will travel to Bangkok for talks with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and also meet the chair of the Advisory Board on the Rakhine Advisory Commission, Surakiart Sathirathai.