China plays economy card in Uighur dispute
Turkey will put economic ties with China if it keeps criticizing Beijing's treatment of Uighur Muslims, China's envoy to Ankara said, in an apparent threat against Turkey’s international stance on the issue.
Last month, Turkey said more than one million people faced faced arbitrary arrest, torture and political brainwashing in Chinese internment camps in the country's northwestern Xinjiang region.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu repeated Ankara's concern at a United Nations meeting this week, calling on China to respect human rights and freedom of religion.
China has denied accusations of mistreatment and deems criticism at the United Nations to be interference in its sovereignty. Beijing says the camps are re-education and training facilities that have stopped attacks previously blamed on Islamist militants and separatists.
"There may be disagreements or misunderstandings between friends but we should solve them through dialogue. Criticizing your friend publicly everywhere is not a constructive approach," said Deng Li, Beijing's top diplomat to Ankara.
"If you choose a non-constructive path, it will negatively affect mutual trust and understanding and will be reflected in commercial and economic relations," Deng, speaking through a translator, told Reuters in interview.
For now, Deng said that many Chinese companies were looking for investment opportunities in Turkey including the third nuclear power plant Ankara wants to build.
Deng said Chinese banks wanted to invest in Turkey, following the lead of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) which bought Tekstilbank in 2015.
China shuts down its consulate in İzmir
Meanwhile, Chinese Embassy to Turkey has announced that the country’s general-consulate in Izmir was closed as of Feb. 28 due to general arrangements with regard to consular activities.
The announcement on the closure of the general-consulate, which exists since 2015, was made through a written statement posted on the website of the Embassy of China in Ankara on Feb. 28.
“The Chinese side has decided to temporarily shut down its Izmir General-Consulate as of Feb. 28, 2019 as part of general arrangements with regard to its embassies and consulates abroad,” read the statement. It informed that the decision was made upon different parameters such as efficiency and to integrate its resources.
“The Chinese side has notified its decision to temporarily shut down its General Consulate in Izmir to the Turkish Government. The Turkish received this situation with understanding,” it added.
It did not cite whether this decision was taken following Turkey’s harsh criticisms against the Chinese government’s policies with regard to Uighur Turks.
The embassy’s statement highlighted the positive role the general-consulate played in developing ties between China and İzmir region since it was opened in 2015.
The decision to shut down the general-consulate has disappointed business groups and trade associations in İzmir. In a written statement, these associations called on the Chines government not to shut down the general-consulate.
“Given the place of our city as part of the One Belt One Road Project and at a moment when t ties between Izmir and China should develop, the closure of the general-consulate with which we have been cooperating deeply saddened us,” it read.
Trade volume between Turkey and China hit $23 billion and İzmir’s contribution to this volume is around $850 million, informed the statement.