In which infrastructure sectors of Bangladesh are the Turkish companies showing interest?
A Turkish company has been shortlisted in the bidding tender of a Dhaka WASA water treatment project. Another company participated in the bidding process of a 450 mw power plant outside Dhaka. Another company is interested in a road project and bridge project.
So these companies are showing interest is all sorts of infrastructure projects of Bangladesh?
Our contracting companies are world famous. Out of 250 best contracting companies in the world, 40 of them are Turkish. They are working in Africa, Central Asia, Balkans and the Middle East. Now they are more interested in Asia. So, Bangladesh can be another hub for them for infrastructure development.
Why should Bangladesh select Turkish companies?
They build very fast. They build very good quality and their price is competitive. These three factors make them successful. Because of their international track record they can raise funding easily.
And what are the reasons behind the growing interest of Turkish companies in Bangladesh?
There is a growing interest of Turkish companies for business, investment and infrastructure in Bangladesh and this is not by accident. It is due to Bangladesh's growing economy, size of the market, political economy and the fact is our bilateral relations are improving.
What would y9u say about the business and investment environment in Bangladesh?
It is not an ideal environment here, I have to admit. The government has good intentions for foreign investment. The government also has political will. I think the problem lies at the lower level of bureaucracy and in terms of custom issue, tax issues. There is need for streamlining. For example, a LPG company of Turkey who has now invested in Bangladesh has to take 38 different licenses to operate. In the past two years they have completed 36 licenses. Now they need two more. This sort of complicated bureaucratic procedure needs to be addressed.
Good relations are one of the main preconditions for the development of business, investment and other areas. Are there any special factors contributing to good relations between Turkey and Bangladesh?
We are very similar culturally and religiously. We are also growing economies and this offers a lot of opportunity for both sides. We are also peace loving nations. Turkey has become one of the top tourist destinations for Bangladeshi nationals. Now we have started to receive medical tourists from Bangladesh too. I think the top leadership of both the countries realise the significance of the relationship from the broader perspective. On top of that, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent a solidarity message to our president Erdogan.
Are you referring to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's letter of support to Erdogan in 2016 when he had been the prime minister?
I refer to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the failed military coup of 2016. Then we must mention the issue of Turkish first lady's visit to Bangladesh immediately after the exodus of Rohingya into Bangladesh in 2017. And then Turkish Prime Minister Binaly Yildirim visited Bangladesh. So, these are milestones of our better relations and building trust.
During his visit to Bangladesh in 2020, Turkish Prime Minister Binaly Yildirim spoke of selling military hardware to Bangladesh.
According to Forces Goal 2030, different forces of Bangladesh including the armed forces, naval forces and the air force decide on their needs and they looked at Turkish companies' capabilities. Then they asked them whether they can supply according to Bangladesh's requirements. In June 2021 Turkish company Rocketsan signed a contract with the armed forces of Bangladesh for providing laser-guided bombs.
Are there any plans to sign a comprehensive defence agreement with Bangladesh?
The cooperation between the two armed forces, including training, is very good. So there is no need for any new agreement. But time will tell whether a further agreement is needed.
Turkey's drones have a solid reputation around the world. At a press briefing last year you spoke about joint manufacture of Turkish military equipment with Bangladesh. Has there been any developments in this matter?
A Turkish company signed a contract with Bangladesh Ordnance Factory for the artillery shell joint production. We are looking into other possibilities.
I would also like to inform you recently the Bangladesh Armed Forces signed a contract with Turkish company Bayker for the procurement of Bayraktar TB2 drone.
You you think defence cooperation has come to the fore in relations between the two countries in recent years?
Definitely. We are participating in the bidding process of Bangladesh Navy projects, like frigate and petrol vessels of the Coast Guard. Turkish companies are ready to build those ships and vessels in Bangladesh with the involvement of Bangladeshi engineers and technicians for the Coast Guard in Khulna Shipyard and Chittagong Dry Dock for the Navy. We are bidding for both projects. We are also with the Air Force for various projects.
In Turkey, we are now 80 per cent self-sufficient. We only import 20 per cent from mostly NATO countries. We produce at NATO standards, but our prices are very competitive and we don't attach political conditions.
Turkey has asked for 60 acres of land to set up a specialised hospital in Bangladesh? Why such a vast area of land?
During his visit in Ankara, Bangladesh's foreign minister AK Abdul Momen proposed this to President Erdogan. And our president responded, asking for the land to be allocated. This is a commercial project. We are very experienced in PPP projects we have more than 15 city hospitals with a capacity of two to three thousand bed capacity. That is the type of project we would like to build here. Foreign investors are not interested in small hospital projects. In PPP projects, size is really important. That is why our president feels that to convince the private sector to invest in Bangladesh's health sector you need a big area of land.
Turkey has been assisting Bangladesh since the influx of the Rohingyas, but no progress has been made in their repatriation. Unless the repatriation process begins, there is fear of unrest emerging in the region. How does Turkey want to assist Bangladesh in this regard?
If the Rohingyas can't return to their own homes, that may create instability. Repatriation is the answer to the problem. Myanmar has to create an environment conducive to their return. All the Rohingyas in the Cox's Bazar camps want to return to their homeland, but firstly minimum conditions must be fulfilled for their safe and dignified return. The military coup in Myanmar has complicated matter. International pressure on Myanmar must be kept up for the repatriation of the Rohingyas. And international support for Bangladesh must also be kept up.
Turkey will be providing financial and political assistance to Bangladesh for the Rohingya genocide case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Our support for Bangladesh will continue until the repatriation of the Rohingyas takes place.
The UN and Turkey mediated the agreement between Russia and Ukraine for the Ukraine ports in the Black Sea to open up for export of food grain and fertiliser to the world market. How did Turkey carry this out successfully?
Since the outbreak of the war, we have been relentlessly working on two tracks: first of which is actively supporting the efforts to ease the humanitarian situation.
And the second track where we play a significant role is facilitating the efforts for a negotiated settlement. We engaged both sides of the conflict diplomatically with a view to bringing an end to the hostilities. Having a strategic partnership with Ukraine and a working relationship with Russia in various regions, makes Turkey's position unique.
Following President Erdogan’s outreach to both sides at the highest level, technical talks on exporting Ukrainian grain were held in Istanbul on July 13 with the participation of the Turkish, Russian, and Ukrainian military delegations, and the UN.
After further intense negotiations, the parties reached an agreement that was signed on 22 July 2022 in Istanbul.
We need to pursue all possible avenues of diplomacy to prevent and end armed conflicts. Our trademark role in mediation for peace aims to do just that!