Chinese leader visits Turkey, Syria to top agenda

Chinese leader visits Turkey, Syria to top agenda

ANKARA - The Associated Press
Chinese leader visits Turkey, Syria to top agenda

China's Vice President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with Turkey's President Abdullah Gul as he arrives at the Presidential Palace in Ankara February 21, 2012. REUTERS Photo

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping was in Turkey on Tuesday, where he was sure to hear from Turkish leaders about their growing concerns over the raging violence in neighboring Syria.

Turkey's government says the world cannot remain silent in the face of Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on dissent. But China, along with Russia, has vetoed two Security Council resolutions backing Arab League plans aimed at ending the conflict and condemning Assad's crackdown on protests that killed 5,400 in 2011 alone, according to the U.N.

China on Saturday said it supports the League's proposals. The seemingly contradictory stance appears to reflect Beijing's desire for mediation while remaining averse to U.N. involvement that could lead to the authorization of force, as happened with Libya.

Xi, who is expected to become president of the world's most populous nation next year, will meet Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss bilateral and regional affairs. Turkey has repeatedly condemned what it calls atrocities in Syria and urged Assad to step down.

Turkey matters in the global debate about the bloodshed because of its 566-mile (911-kilometer) frontier with Syria, and because it has matured into a regional power and potential counter to Iran, a backer of Damascus. About 10,000 Syrians, fleeing the violence, have sought refuge in Turkey.
Xi was also expected to oversee the signing of cooperation agreements with Turkey.

Earlier in the day, some 100 Uighurs set two Chinese flags on fire and stamped on them in a protest against China's crackdown on the minority group in China's Xinjiang region. Uighurs are related to Turks and Turkey is home to a large Uighur community.

Violence between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese left nearly 200 dead in western China in 2009 in the worst riots in China's far west in more than a decade.