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Bangladesh and Turkey jointly opened a weeklong medical exercise on Sunday from which Bangladeshi physicians are expected to learn about various procedures.

Bangladeshi officials hope this ‘joint health week’ will open the door for better bilateral relations between the two countries.

Health Minister A F M Ruhal Haque inaugurated the first-ever health week in which 25 Turkish specialists of different disciplines will train up Bangladeshi doctors at different hospitals.

“The benefit can be mutual,” the minister said. “It’s (the relationship) in the peak now because of the persistent effort of our Prime Minister,” he said.

Turkey, which is lobbying hard for European Union membership, has been seeking stronger bonding with the Muslim-majority countries including Bangladesh.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Bangladesh in 2010 in reciprocate of his counterpart President Mohammad Zillur Rahman’s visit.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has visited Turkey twice during her nearly four years in office and signed seven agreements to enhance cooperation and trade as the two countries eyed $3 billion bilateral trade by 2015 from the $1 billion in 2010.

A 15-member Turkish business delegation will also come to Dhaka this month.

“It’s the beginning of cooperation in the health sector,” Dr Oner Guner, General Director for European Union and Foreign Relations, Ministry of Health, Turkey, said at the opening of the health week.

The specialists will train up doctors of neuro-surgery and general surgery at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, paediatric surgery at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, orthopaedics at the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, eye at the National Institute of Ophthalmology and heart surgery at Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

“It will … open the door of mutual understanding and cooperation,” said Adviser to the Health Minister of Turkey Kamuran Ozden.

Senior Secretary for Health Md Humayun Kabir said the training programme came as part of their bilateral agreement of cooperation in health and medical science signed on Nov 14, 2010.

He said they had finalised the action plans in December last year under the agreement.

“It’s (doctors’ training) yet another part of our cooperation,” Turkish Ambassador in Dhaka Vakur Erkul said.

The Ambassador said they would support building community clinics in Bangladesh.

“We will start on a pilot basis by building 10 community health clinics,” he said. “If we can do it, it will give the way of building more.”

The Ambassador also recalled the friendship of the two countries that he said was lasting since over eight centuries when Hazrat Shah Jalal, who was born in Konya, Turkey, came to Syhlet from where he spread Sufism in the region.

“We have good relations in the fields of economics and politics,” he said.

There are opportunities to further strengthen the relations, he said.

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