Bangladesh warns its citizens of legal action if anyone tries to visit Israel

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Dhaka, May 26 (PTI) Bangladesh on Wednesday warned of legal actions against anyone who tries to visit Israel from the country as it still does not recognise the Jewish state.

'We remain very strong (on this stand),' Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters after handing over pharmaceutical products for the people of Palestine to its Ambassador to Bangladesh Yousef SY Ramadan as a gesture of Dhaka's solidarity with Palestine.

The medical supplies will be sent for the people of Palestine through Jordan.

Momen said the immigration authorities would immediately stop any Bangladeshi passport holder who would try to visit Israel.

'They (immigration police) have been doing it for years,' Momen said. 'If anyone goes there (Israel), the person will be liable to be prosecuted.' The minister's warning came three days after Bangladesh made it clear that it dropped the phrase 'all countries except Israel' from passport to maintain international standards of the document but there was no change in its decades-long policy of travel ban to the Jewish state.

Bangladeshi passports earlier had a clause written on them that said “This Passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel”, but the government on Saturday decided to remove “except Israel” from the document making it valid for the entire world.

Israel at that time welcomed Bangladesh's decision and called upon Dhaka to establish diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv for the benefit of the people of the two countries.

However, hours later Momen appeared before the media in Dhaka and said 'the changes have been made to maintain global standards' which 'does not mean that there has been a change in Bangladesh's position' regarding Israel.

Bangladesh's foreign ministry in a subsequent statement said the holders of Bangladeshi passports were still banned from travelling to Israel.

Momen said that the move to drop the phrase 'except Israel' from newly issued e-passports to 'maintain international standard' created a speculation that Bangladesh lifted the travel ban to Israel. 'The passport is an identity and it doesn't relate to foreign policy,' he added.

'We don't recognise Israel,' he said, adding that Bangladesh has maintained the policy since its independence from Pakistan in 1971.

In the Israel-Palestine conflict of eight decades, Bangladesh has all along stridently supported the Palestinians’ cause. It has never recognised the existence of Israel, and so the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

Legal experts said it would be illegal for a Bangladeshi to travel to Israel from his home country but if someone travels to Israel from another country, then, Israel might not see a reason to stop him as the passport now doesn't stop him from travelling there. PTI AR ZH ZH

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