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BEIJING (AP) — China will offer humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh to help shelter and feed hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees from neighboring Myanmar, the foreign minister said Friday.

Wang Yi also told reporters that China hoped repatriation of refugees could begin “as early as possible,” following a meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in Beijing.

“We will contribute our efforts (to help with offering more humanitarian aids) in line with Bangladesh’s needs,” Wang said.

Ali said the two had had “detailed discussions” about the status of the refugees and that he sought China’s support for the “early reparation of these displaced people back to their homeland” in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

About 700,000 Rohingya have fled into neighboring Bangladesh since last August to escape what United Nations and U.S. officials have called an “ethnic cleansing” campaign by Myanmar’s government. Ali gave the number of refugees at 1.1 million.

The U.N. refugee agency has signed a preliminary agreement for the return of the refugees with Bangladesh and Myanmar provided the conditions for a safe and orderly repatriation are fulfilled — something aid workers say still has not happened on the ground in Myanmar.

China maintains close ties to Myanmar’s powerful military and has refused to join international condemnation of the campaign of organized violence. The Foreign Ministry has previously described the issue as an internal affair containing “complicated historical, national and religious factors.”

Myanmar has denied Rohingya citizenship and other rights and considers them immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.