‘Myanmar continuing gas exploration in Bangladesh waters’

November 4th, 2008 - 3:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 4 (IANS) Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain left for Myanmar Tuesday for talks after Dhaka accused Yangon of “ignoring” its warnings and continuing with exploration in the Bay of Bengal, where a territorial dispute remains unresolved. Dhaka has complained that three exploration vessels looking for hydrocarbons, escorted by two Myanmar warships, which intruded into Bangladesh’s territorial waters Saturday, are yet to be withdrawn.

Bangladesh has similar complains with India as well. Maritime boundaries between the three remain un-demarcated. Dhaka’s talks with the two some weeks ago remained preliminary in nature and did not produce anything conclusive.

Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury summoned Myanmar Ambassador Phae Thann Oo to the foreign ministry Monday and conveyed the government’s decision to send Hossain.

The foreign ministry also called the South Korean ambassador and asked him to withdraw the company working for Myanmar. The South Korean ships are now 50 nautical miles southwest of St. Martin’s Island in Bangladesh.

Three Bangladesh Navy ships are confronting six ships sent by Myanmar, which deployed around 50 people for oil and gas exploration there, The Daily Star newspaper said Tuesday.

“We are sending Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain as a special envoy to lodge our protest at the highest level of Myanmar, so that the situation does not go beyond control,” the adviser told reporters, adding: “We are sending the foreign secretary to protect our interest.”

Sources said Commodore Habibur Rahman and retired commodore Khurshid Alam will also accompany the foreign secretary.

Emerging from a meeting with the Myanmar ambassador, who was summoned to the foreign ministry twice within 24 hours to hear the protest, the foreign adviser said several Myanmar vessels intruded into Bangladesh territorial waters for hydrocarbon exploration near deep sea blocks eight to claimed by Bangladesh. However, Myanmar claims those are within its territorial waters.

Chowdhury said the government will take all steps to protect the sovereignty and territory of Bangladesh.

“We want to put an end to this situation forthwith…We want to resolve the matter diplomatically,” he said.

He noted that Bangladesh is a peace-loving nation and “we do not want to go for any confrontation as Myanmar is our friendly neighbour”.

The foreign adviser said Bangladesh and Myanmar will hold talks here on delimitation of boundaries on Dec 16-17. A deputy minister from Myanmar will lead his country’s delegation.

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