Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has described the Malaysia Turkey diplomatic ties as “extraordinary”.
Speaking to Malaysian journalists here at the end of his four-day working visit to Turkey, the Deputy Prime Minister said relations between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were on a special track as each time Malaysia spoke out on certain issues, it received the appropriate recognition from Turkey.
“The special relationship between Malaysia and Turkey which is extraordinary did not only come about due to the positive response from President Erdogan on several proposals by Malaysia on resolving universal and regional issues but also the close personal relationship he (Erdogan) has with our prime minister which was made known to me during my closed-door meeting with President Erdogan.
“Hopefully, the good relations will be further enhanced down the road,” he said.
The Deputy Prime Minister came to Turkey to represent Najib in leading the Malaysian delegation to the D-8 Organisation for Economic Cooperation (D-8) Summit which was held here.
While here, Ahmad Zahid had the opportunity to have the closed-door meeting with President Erdogan to discuss issues of mutual interest to both countries.
“Among the matters, we agreed to the setting up of branch campus of Turkey’s Ibn Haldun University in Malaysia,” said Ahmad Zahid, who also had the opportunity to visit the famed university during this working visit.
According to him, the university which will be operational from Jan 1, 2018 will take over the Al Bukhary International University in Alor Setar, Kedah and will introduce several courses that are technical and technology inclined like engineering, defence and aviation.
He said the setting up of the university had received the approval of the Malaysian Higher Education Ministry and would see a foreign-local student enrolment ratio of 80:20.
“We see Turkey has the expertise in producing graduates in these fields and Turkey will be able to make a success of transfer of knowledge which will be beneficial to Malaysian students,” he said.
Ahmad Zahid said Turkey had also nominated a candidate to be the rector of the university while the teaching force would be made up of various nationalities including from Turkey and Malaysia.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the Turkish government had worked hard to ensure the success of the setting up of the university which President Erdogan himself will officiate when he attends the Putrajaya International Security Dialogue on Jan 5 and 6 next year.
He added that Turkey was also looking at setting up the Maarif Foundation to promote educational joint-ventures between the two countries.
Ahmad Zahid said through this foundation, Turkey would offer scholarships to Malaysian students who want to pursue their studies there in certain fields like Education as well as Technical and Vocational Education and Training.
“Turkey will also collaborate in cultural areas through the Yunus Emre Institute to promote culture, the arts and civilisation of both countries,” he said.
Regarding the D-8 summit chaired by Turkey, Ahmad Zahid said Turkey and Malaysia managed to raise the humanitarian issue involving Rohingya refugees who were currently sheltering at Kutupalong Refugee Camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
He said apart from Malaysia’s commitment, Turkey also promised to provide immediate assistance by building a hospital, providing tents besides food and clothing aid.
Malaysia and Turkey would also jointly seek the cooperation of other countries to enable a resolution to be agreed upon internationally, urging Myanmar to take back the Rohingya refugees and allow them to lead normal lives in their homeland, he said.
He also said Malaysia would give priority to the group of D-8 member countries when Malaysia heads the D-8 secretariat after former Malaysian ambassador to Egypt, Datuk Ku Jaafar Ku Shaari, assumes the post of new Secretary-General of D-8 starting Jan 1, 2018.
“This D-8 summit has not been held since the last five years, it will be a much awaited conference by member countries,” said Ahmad Zahid, who is optimistic that more developing countries will join the group when a proposal to open membership to other countries is accepted in order to strengthen trade and economic cooperation.
The D-8 comprises Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.