During the Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Bangladesh where he opened Ankara’s new embassy compound, a variety of topics, including bilateral ties, Rohingya Muslims, and defense industry and economic relations were discussed, according to Turkey’s ambassador to Dhaka.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Turkey’s Ambassador to Bangladesh Mustafa Osman Turan gave his remarks on Mevlut Cavusoglu’s visit and possible future outcomes, saying that both countries had the potential to deepen their ties through cooperation.

Cavusoglu’s inauguration came at a time when diplomatic visits were happening on a rare basis due to the pandemic. His visit grabbed the attention of Bangladesh, according to the ambassador, who said earlier medical aid of five tons by Turkey had been welcomed as well.

Turkey-Bangladesh trade volume was not adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Turan said, asserting that both sides were on the same page regarding doubling the amount, which is currently standing at $1 billion.

“We want to bring more Turkish investors to Bangladesh as it is a very advantageous country,” he said, noting that both qualified manpower and size of the market made Bangladesh more appealing and the country had duty-free status in the eyes of some organizations, as well as the EU, due to its less developed position.

According to the Turkish diplomat, both countries are willing to boost their commercial interaction and the Turkish Foreign Economic Relations Board would sign an agreement with Bangladeshi organizations representing businessmen.

Turan also noted that two virtual meetings would be held soon, hoping that they would lead to positive outcomes in the coming period.

He went on to say that Bangladesh had some special economic zones some of which it would allocate to other countries and Bangladesh was willing to allocate a similar zone for the use of Turkish investors.

Rohingya Muslims

Turkish official recalled that Bangladesh went through a new refugee influx of Rohingya Muslims back in 2017 and Turkey currently extended a helping hand to about 1 million of them through organizations such as the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, Turkish Red Crescent, Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency, and NGOs.

Underlining that Turkey’s aid activities to Bangladesh would continue without a pause, the diplomat said Bangladesh wanted the international community to pressure Myanmar for the Rohingya Muslim population to return to the country.

“Bangladesh wants the Rohingya to return to Myanmar and international pressure on Myanmar to ensure that. That is because an agreement was signed on the return, but Myanmar is not applying it,” he said, adding that Turkey supported Bangladesh regarding the cases, both at individual and state levels, launched against Myanmar at the International Criminal Court.

The ambassador, citing Cavusoglu, said Bangladesh sought to locate about 10% of the refugees residing at camps to the island of Bhasan Char but sponsor countries were not willing to take steps so long as the living standard on the island were not living up to the level set by the UN.

He said: “Turkey is ready to help. If the UN issues a positive report on the living conditions on the island, we, just like the other donor countries, will continue our help,” he said. “Our minister [Cavusoglu] advised the Bangladeshi government to cooperate with the UN in this regard.”

Defense industry

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would visit Bangladesh in the coming period, the ambassador said, adding that the presidential level of visit was of importance in line with Turkey’s Asia Anew policy.

Another topic discussed amid Cavusoglu’s visit to Bangladesh was cooperation on the defense industry, according to Turan.

“The defense industry is an important field of cooperation. In this context, there are agreements signed between the countries’ armed forces and relations developed by some defense companies,” he said, stressing that Bangladesh had so far done its arms deals with other countries but Turkey now stood as an important supplier alternative for Dhaka planning to diversify its suppliers.

Turan concluded that both countries had recently opened new embassies, and opening such buildings along with serious investments demonstrated how much value both sides attributed to their relations.

*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas in Ankara

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