Bangladesh has denied lifting travel restrictions for its citizens to Israel after the announcement that its passports would no longer carry the words “valid for all countries of the world except Israel.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dhaka issued a statement in response to a Twitter post by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel which welcomed the removal of ban on travel to Israel on E-passports being issued by Bangladesh.
“Great news! #Bangladesh has removed travel ban to Israel,” tweeted Gilad Cohen, Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Asia and the Pacific. “This is a welcome step & I call on the Bangladeshi government to move forward and establish diplomatic ties with #Israel so both our peoples could benefit & prosper.”
But the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry subsequently said: “The confusion appears to have emanated from the new booklets of E-passports which does not contain the observation ‘all countries except Israel.’ The removal of the observation has been done to maintain international standard of Bangladeshi e-passports and does not imply any change of Bangladesh’s foreign policy towards the Middle East.
“The ban on travel of Bangladeshi passport holders to Israel remains unchanged. The Government of Bangladesh has not deviated from its position on Israel and Bangladesh remains firm on its long-standing position in this regard.
“The Government of Bangladesh has condemned the recent atrocities inflicted upon the civilians by the occupation forces of Israel at Al-Aqsa mosque compound and in Gaza. Bangladesh reiterates its principled position concerning the two-state solution of the Palestine-Israel conflict in light of the UN resolutions recognising pre-1967 borders and East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine.”
Bangladesh does not recognise the existence of Israel and Bangladeshi citizens attempting to travel to Israel have been subject to arrest and imprisonment.
In one high profile incident, former Weekly Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was sentenced to an extended jail sentence after attempting to travel to Israel in order to attend a conference.
Despite the official hostility between the two countries, earlier this year an investigation by Al Jazeera revealed that Bangladesh purchased surveillance technology produced by an Israeli company.
Al Jazeera obtained documents showing the sale of “passive” cell phone monitoring and interception systems made by the Israeli cyber-surveillance firm PicSix to the Bangladesh army. The documents show that despite the fact that the company is registered in Israel, Israel is not the country of origin for the sale, but rather Hungary.
Al Jazeera’s report detailed how the sale was orchestrated through a middleman in Thailand. In a recording, the broker is caught admitting that the so-called P6 Interception system is actually Israeli-made.
In an interview with the BBC Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister denied the sale, as did its army.