KATHMANDU, Sept 23: Nepal is asking Bhutan to repatriate Bhutanese refugees, who declined third-country resettlements, to amicably resolve the over two-decade long refugees problem.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who left for New York leading the Nepalese delegation to attend the 67th session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Saturday, will make the request during his meeting with Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley on the sideline of the UNGA.
"I will make a request with Bhutan to help amicably resolve the issue of Bhutanese refugees," Shrestha told Republica before his departure to New York.
Some 14,000 of original 108,000 Bhutanese refugees have declined third-country resettlements, demanding that they be repatriated to Bhutan with dignity.
"The bilateral relation [between Nepal and Bhutan] that has a huge prospect is now at a standstill situation due to longstanding refugee problem. This needs to be resolved amicably," he said.
Bhutan is scheduled to make official request to Nepal to support its bid for non-permanent member of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) during the meeting. Nepal is likely to positively respond to Bhutan´s request if Bhutanese side agrees to help resolve the protracted refugee problem that has remained the only irritating factor between the relation of the two countries, sources said.
Bhutan is contending for a non-permanent seat for 2013-14 term, elections for which are scheduled for October.
Deputy Prime Minister Shrestha is also holding separate meetings with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Professor G.L. Peiris on the sideline of the UNGA.
During his meeting with the leaders from the SAARC countries, Minister Shrestha will informally propose to defer for few months the 18th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) earlier scheduled to be held in May, 2013 in view of the decision made by major parties to go for fresh CA election around the same time.
"We will convey our inability to hold the Summit in the stipulated date in view of the parties´ decision to go for the fresh CA election by April," said a foreign ministry source familiar with the development.
The source also cited Nepal´s political uncertainty and lack of adequate preparations to hold the summit behind the decision. The issue of deferral of the Summit, which Nepal had unofficially proposed to host before May, will also feature during a meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers on the sideline of the UNGA. The Council of Ministers comprises foreign ministers of all SAARC countries.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in his capacity of the head of Nepalese delegation is also scheduled to hold meeting with head of the government and foreign ministers from various countries including President of Swiss Confederation Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf And UK´s Foreign Minister on the sideline of the UNGA.
"We believe the meetings will be more important to advance our bilateral relations with various countries," said a senior foreign ministry official.