Bangladesh on Monday ruled out establishing diplomatic relations with Israel amid widespread criticism for a recent change to its passports.
Citing the need to uphold international standards, the government recently removed the words “this passport valid except for Israel.”
Information Minister Hasan Mahmud told reporters in the capital Dhaka that the recent “change in the passport was made in line with international law, and there is nothing for Israel to rejoice in this.”
He said that no matter what the passports say, mutual visits are banned.
“We don’t have any diplomatic relations with Israel and this will remain the same in the future. Israel will be banned or closed for Bangladeshi citizens and it will be the same for the people with Israeli passports for traveling to Bangladesh,” he said.
He also reiterated Bangladesh’s stance on the Palestinian people, saying that its position on Israel has become more integrated with the recent aggression against innocent Palestinians.
Since the South Asian Muslim majority country came into being in 1971, it has openly affirmed its position in favor of Palestine and against the Israeli oppression in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, called the government's decision to remove the words "Israel" from passports an "unprincipled position."
At a press conference, he claimed that the government changed the travel document ban at a time when Israeli forces were brutally attacking Palestinians.
He said the government made the changes to appease "external forces."
The deletion of the words "this passport valid except in Israel" had sparked criticism, including on social media, and outrage mounted following a welcoming tweet from the Israeli Foreign Ministry's head for Asia and the Pacific.
The Foreign Ministry had to issue a statement confirming its stance in favor of Palestine and that there will be no change in its foreign policy for Israel.
During Israel's latest attacks on Palestinians, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen reaffirmed their country's support for the legitimate Arab struggle and condemned Tel Aviv for bombing civilians in Gaza.