Kathmandu: Bhutan on Friday underlined the need for an early resumption of negotiations with Nepal to settle the two-decades-old lingering dispute of repatriation of Bhutanese refugees languishing in camps in eastern Nepal for two decades.

The two countries agreed to resume the negotiations to settle the issue during Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley's three-day visit to Nepal. He met his Nepalese counterpart Jhala Nath Khanal, Maoist chief Prachanda and Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala.

Addressing a press conference at the end of his visit on Saturday, Thinley said his country wanted to resume the talks at the earliest but rejected the idea of involving India in settling the refugees’ issue.

The two sides have not held talks since 2003 to settle the issue of over 100,000 refugees who have settled in Nepal for two decades.

Thinley also praised the international community for lending support for the resettlement of over 40,000 refugees on humanitarian grounds and maintained that the refugees issue would be settled through bilateral talks.

16 rounds of ministerial talks between Nepal and Bhutan failed to achieve the repatriation of even a single refugee, and over 40,000 refugees have been resettled in the US and some European countries at the initiative of international refugees’ agency UNHCR.

Still there are some 80,000 refugees in eastern Nepal camps.