13th Asia Europe Foreign Ministers Meeting (ASEM) in Nay Pyi Taw on November 20, 2017. Photo: Thura/Mizzima

China has called for a ceasefire in Myanmar’s Rakhine State to enable  Rohingya Muslim refugees to return from Bangladesh in its three-stage plan to resolve the crisis.

The proposal was communicated to Myanmar during high level talks between its leaders and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who is here for the Asia-Europe Meeting of foreign ministers at Nay Pyi Taw. 

More than 600,000 Muslim Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a military clearance operation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

On Monday, Aung San Suu Kyi opened the Asia-Europe Meeting for foreign ministers at Nay Pyi Taw, where Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China believed Myanmar and Bangladesh could work out a mutually acceptable way to end the crisis.

“The first phase is to effect a ceasefire on the ground, to return to stability and order, so the people can enjoy peace and no longer be forced to flee,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement, quoting Wang Yi.

“With the hard work of all sides, at present, the target for the first phase has already been achieved. The key now is to prevent a flare-up, especially to ensure that there is no fresh eruption of the flames of war.”

During a meeting on Sunday, the ministry said, Wang told Myanmar President Htin Kyaw, “As a friend of both Myanmar and Bangladesh, China is willing to keep playing a constructive role for the appropriate handling of the Rakhine State issue.”

Visiting Myanmar last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made many of the same points, but he also called for a credible investigation into reports of atrocities.

Once a ceasefire is seen to be working, Wang said talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh should find a workable solution for the return of refugees, and the final phase should be to work toward a long-term solution based on poverty alleviation.

Myanmar and Bangladesh officials began talks last month to finalise a repatriation plan for Rohingya refugees, which Bangladesh expects to take to the next level in coming days.

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