H.E. Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Bangladesh. File Picture
Ambassador of Turkey in Dhaka Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan. He is in this country since February 2020. He is involved in various efforts to increase Turkey's cooperation in various fields including business and investment in Bangladesh. He recently spoke to a media on various issues of bilateral relations. His words are presented for you.
Question: How would you evaluate the Dhaka-Ankara relationship in comparison to the past years, not only in terms of trade and defense, but also in a broader context?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: Judging from the larger context, we are at a stage that will take our relationship to a new level. This clause is noticeable not only in one or two, but in several cases. Let's take the matter of trade relations. In this respect we are moving towards a much more balanced trade. When I came to Dhaka two and a half years ago, the annual bilateral trade was about eight hundred and fifty million dollars. Even after the Coronavirus outbreak, it crossed the $1 billion mark at the end of last year. The volume of business in the first four to five months of this year is 15 percent higher than last year. We are not only exporting products to Bangladesh but also importing from Bangladesh. We see a growing interest among our companies to invest in Bangladesh. Turkey's Arcelik has bought most of the shares of Singer Bangladesh. They are also investing here for business expansion. Turkey's Igaz has jointly invested in Chittagong with United Group in the energy sector. Turkish institutions are also showing interest in Bangladesh's infrastructure development.
Question: Turkish companies are showing interest in any infrastructure sector of Bangladesh?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: A Turkish company has been shortlisted by participating in the tender for Dhaka WASA water treatment plant process. Another company has participated in the tender for the production of 450 megawatts of electricity outside Dhaka. Turkish companies participated in the tender of road and bridge projects.
Question: Does that mean that the institutions are showing interest in the development of various infrastructures in Bangladesh?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: 40 of the world's top 250 infrastructure development companies are from Turkey. After Africa, Central Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East, they are now showing more interest in Asia. So Bangladesh can be the focus of their interest.
Question: Why will Bangladesh choose Turkish institutions?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: They finish the project quickly. Quality of work is good. Relatively less in terms of cost. Turkish companies have been successful for these three reasons. It is also easier for Turkish institutions to raise funds due to international recognition.
Question: What are the reasons for the increasing interest of Turkish institutions in Bangladesh?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: There is no reason to think that the interest of Turkish companies to join in business, investment and infrastructure development in Bangladesh is quick. The continued economic growth of the country, the market here, the political stability and the relationship between the two countries - all are increasing the interest.
Question: How is the business and investment environment in Bangladesh?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: The business environment of Bangladesh cannot be called ideal. The government is sincere. There is political will. The problem is at the bottom of the bureaucracy here. There are some problems with customs, which need to be fixed. Bureaucracy has complicated the situation. A Turkish LPG company has invested in Bangladesh. When they started the business, they found that at least 38 different licenses were required to run a business in Bangladesh. In the last two years they have managed to get 36 licenses. Waiting for two more. It is important to solve such problems quickly.
Question: Good relationship is said to be one of the main factors in development in various fields including business, investment. What was the special element in the good relations between the two countries?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: There is harmony between the two countries religiously and culturally. The growing economies of the two countries have also brought many opportunities for both sides. We are both peaceful countries. Turkey is now one of the main destinations for Bangladeshi tourists. Recently, people from Bangladesh are going to Turkey for medical treatment. The top leadership of the two countries has realized the importance of the relationship as a whole. However, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's message of sympathy towards Turkish President Mr. Erdoğan surpassed everything.
Question: Are you talking about the letter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2016 in support of the then Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. Erdoğan?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: Yes. I am talking about the support of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to President Mr. Erdoğan during the failed military coup in Turkey in 2016. Then came the visit of the First Lady of Turkey to Bangladesh in 2017, right after the influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Then Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim came to Bangladesh. These are milestones in strengthening relations and trust between the two countries.
Question: During his visit to Dhaka in December 2020, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Savasglu talked about arms sales to Bangladesh.
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: According to the "Forces Goal-2030" of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, the Bangladesh Army, Navy and Air Force have verified the capability of Turkish institutions to meet their needs. Then they want to know whether we can supply according to their needs or not. In June last year, the Bangladesh Armed Forces signed a contract with Rocketsun for the supply of laser guided bombs.
Question: Are you thinking of signing a comprehensive defense agreement with Bangladesh?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: The mutual cooperation and understanding at the highest level of the armed forces of the two countries in various fields including training is very good. So there is no need for a new contract. But time will tell whether it is necessary or not.
Question: The fame of your drones has now spread all over the world. Last year in a press conference you spoke about Turkey's joint production of arms with Bangladesh. Is there any progress on this?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: Bangladesh Ordnance Factory has signed an agreement with a Turkish company for the joint production of artillery shells. We are exploring the possibility of such joint production in other areas.
Talking about drones, Turkish drone manufacturer Biker has recently signed an agreement with the Bangladesh Armed Forces for the sale of Bayrakter TB2 drones.
Question: Do you think defense cooperation is one of the main factors in the development of relations between the two countries in recent years?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: That's right. We have participated in tenders for supply of naval equipment. We are ready to supply frigates and coast guard petrol boats. I participated in two tenders of Khulna Shipyard and Chittagong Dry Dock through technical support by adding engineers of this country. Discussions are underway to join forces with the Air Force.
Another thing to say is that 80 percent of our weapons are produced by ourselves. We collect the remaining 20 percent from NATO countries. The standard of armaments produced by us is at par with that of NATO member countries. The price is also relatively low. We do not put any political conditions on arms sales.
Question: Turkey has asked for 60 acres of land to build a specialized hospital in Bangladesh. Why do you want such a large land?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: Bangladesh Foreign Minister Mr. AK Abdul Momen made this proposal to President Mr. Erdoğan during his visit to Turkey. It should be remembered that this specialized hospital is a commercial project. Turkey has experience of at least 15 projects of two to three thousand bed hospitals under PPP (Public-Private Partnership). The proposed project in Bangladesh is also similar. Foreign investors are not available in small hospitals. It is important to have big projects in PPP. Where all types of services including healthcare will be available.
Question: Turkey has been supporting Bangladesh in various ways since the infiltration of Rohingyas. But there is no progress on repatriation. If Rohingya repatriation does not start, there is fear of instability in the region. How Turkey wants to help Bangladesh in this case?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: If the Rohingyas cannot return to their homes, it can become a source of instability. The final solution to this problem is repatriation. Myanmar needs to create a supportive environment for this. All the Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar camp want to go back to their original home. But before that the minimum conditions for a safe and dignified repatriation must be met. A military coup in Myanmar has complicated the situation. International pressure should continue on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas. International support to Bangladesh should also be continued.
Turkey is providing financial and political support to Bangladesh in the ICJ (International Court of Justice) case of Rohingya genocide. Our support to Bangladesh will continue until the Rohingyas are repatriated.
Question: The United Nations and Turkey brokered an agreement between Russia and Ukraine to open Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea to the world market for grain and fertilizer exports. How did Turkey succeed in this regard?
Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan: We have been working on two levels since the beginning of the war. First, we are actively cooperating to reduce the humanitarian crisis as much as possible. Secondly, we are playing an important role in resolving the crisis through negotiation. We have involved them in the diplomatic process to remove the animosity between the two sides. We are in a unique position to maintain a strategic partnership with Ukraine and working relationships with Russia in various regions.
Technical-level talks on Ukraine's grain exports were held in Istanbul on July 13 after President Mr. Erdoğan held talks with top leaders from both sides. The talks were attended by Turkey, Russia and Russian military representatives and the United Nations. After intensive negotiations, the agreement was signed in Istanbul on July 22.