Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled across the border to escape a military crackdown.
The deal was signed by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor of Myanmar Kyaw Tint Swe in Nay Pyi Taw on Thursday, Bdnews24.com reported.
"This is the first step. The two countries will now have to work on the next steps... We will give details once we return to Dhaka," Ali said after signing the deal.
Myint Kyaing, a permanent secretary at Myanmar's Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population said: "We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the forms back to us."
Kyaing was referring to registration forms the Rohingya must complete with personal details before repatriation. More than 600,000 have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since violence erupted in Rakhine state late in August.
Human rights monitors accused Myanmar's military of atrocities against the minority population during its clearance operations following Rohingya militants' August 25 attacks on multiple government posts.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Myanmar's military action against the Rohingyas constituted "ethnic cleansing".
Last week, the Myanmar Army exonerated itself of blame regarding the Rohingya crisis. It denied killing any Rohingya, burning their villages, raping women and girls and stealing possessions.
Amnesty International dismissed the Myanmar military's denials as an attempted "whitewash".
Pope Francis is due to arrive in Myanmar on November 26. His visit will include meetings with Army Chief General Min Aung Hlaing and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Vatican said.
The Pontiff will later travel to Bangladeshi capital Dhaka to meet Rohingya refugees.
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