Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen and Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid pose for a photo after singing a memorandum of understanding on a joint commission for comprehensive cooperation in presence of prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Maldivian president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at the Prime Minister’s Office in Dhaka on Thursday. — Focus Bangla photo

Bangladesh and Maldives on Thursday reached a consensus to strengthen connectivity by establishing direct commercial shipping and air links and sign a preferential trade agreement aimed at increasing trade between the two countries.

The two countries also signed four memorandums of understanding to boost cooperation in different areas including fisheries and cultural affairs.

The agreements were reached at talks at the level of the heads of the  governments of the two sides — Maldivian president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and prime minister Sheikh Hasina — at the Prime Minister’s Office in Dhaka.

Foreign ministers of the two countries — Abdulla Shahid of Maldives and AK Abdul Momen of Bangladesh — briefed journalists about the outcome of the talks.

The two top leaders decided to establish a direct commercial shipping link between Male, the capital and seaport of Maldives, and the three seaports of Bangladesh by signing a shipping agreement.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines would operate regular commercial flights between Dhaka and Male, Sheikh Hasina announced during the talks.

The four MOUs signed between the two countries, after the talks, were on setting up of a foreign minister-level joint commission for comprehensive cooperation, launching an annual bilateral foreign office consultation at the level of foreign secretaries, cooperation in the field of fisheries and pelagic fishing and on a cultural exchange programme for 2022-2025.

President Solih and prime minister Hasina witnessed the signing of the MOUs, PM’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim said in a briefing after the talks, according to Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha.

Both the countries agreed to hold regular commerce secretary-level meeting to negotiate PTA and expedite the finalisation of the proposed agreement on customs cooperation and signing an agreement on avoidance of double taxation.

Bangladesh iterated its policy of extending continued support towards the development of human resources in the Maldives in different fields including higher education in medicine and dentistry.

Bangladesh also offered training courses to the Maldivian peacekeepers at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training.

‘Bangladesh is a potential trade partner of the Maldives and the PTA will be signed in the near future,’ Karim said, quoting the Maldivian president.

On the Rohingya issue, president Solih said that his country wants to work jointly with Bangladesh at the International Courts Justice to protect the rights of the Rohingyas.

Solih appreciated significant contributions made by Bangladeshi expatriate workers in the two economies.

The two leaders reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and agreed to expand mutual cooperation in multiple prospective areas, including trade, commerce, investment, youth development, healthcare, education and pharmaceuticals.

Sheikh Hasina called upon the Maldives to import various products from Bangladesh to address the bilateral trade issues in details.

Solih and Hasina held a one-on-one meeting before the delegation-level talks with participation from foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, commerce minister Tipu Munshi, LGRD and cooperatives minister Md Tajul Islam, fisheries and livestock minister SM Rezaul Karim, state minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam, PM’s principal secretary Ahmad Kaikaus and foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen from Bangladesh side.

From the Maldives side, foreign minister Abdulla Shahid, economic development minister Fayyaz Ismail and foreign secretary Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed were present.

Maldives foreign minister said the two sides also agreed to regularise Bangladeshi workers for ensuring their rights and protections from exploitations.

The two countries also agreed to work together for maintaining peace in the Indian Ocean region, he said.

Solih was set to join a reception hosted in his honour by president Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban.

Maldivian president Solih reached Dhaka on Wednesday morning to attend the celebrations of the birth centenary of Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of the country’s independence.

He was set to leave Dhaka for Male on early Friday.

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