Chinese VP’s visit boosts Turkey ties

Chinese VP’s visit boosts Turkey ties

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Chinese VP’s visit boosts Turkey ties

Turkish President Abdullah Gül (R) welcomes Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping during a ceremony at the Çankaya Presidential Palace in the capital, Ankara. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the frontrunner to become China’s next leader, has begun a visit to Turkey that aims to strengthen bilateral ties in the economic, political and security realms.

“Turkey and China have been playing an important role in international and regional affairs in recent years,” Xi said, recalling that the two countries had agreed on strategic cooperation in 2010. “I believe that Xi’s visit will bring a special meaning to relations,” Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çicek said during his meeting with the vice president.

Çiçek hinted at disagreements between Ankara and Beijing – an apparent reference to the situation of China’s Uighur community – but added that bilateral cooperation should not be affected by any problems. “Undoubtedly, there are issues the two countries are sensitive about. But we, as Turkey, are taking up those issues delicately, in a spirit of cooperation and within a framework that would not harm our relations,” he said.

Earlier in the day, police sealed off streets leading to Xi’s hotel as dozens of demonstrators assembled in the area to protest China’s policies against the Uighur minority in its western Xinjiang region.

The group set two Chinese flags on fire and stamped on them while chanting anti-Chinese slogans. Many members of the Uighur community, which share ethnic and historic bonds with Turkey, have taken refuge in the country.

Human rights groups have accused China of committing abuses during a crackdown after Uighur riots in 2009; at the time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the events as “genocide.”

Xi, who is on the last leg of a trip that also took him to the United States and Ireland, signed cooperation agreements with President Abdullah Gül that included financial cooperation between the Treasury Undersecretaries and the China Development Bank, a memorandum of understanding between Turkish public broadcaster TRT and Chinese Central Television (CCTV), as well as a currency swap agreement worth 10 billion yuan ($1.58 billion).

Currency swap agreement
Turkey and China have been sharply at odds on the Syrian crisis, which was one of the key issues on Xi’s agenda. During his talks with Gül, Xi said he gave importance to Turkey and aimed to strengthen ties, especially trade relations, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Praising Turkey’s regional and international role, Xi said they would like to further cooperation with Turkey in the United Nations and G-20 mechanisms, according to the official. Turkey and China were two countries that wrote history and connected with each other via the Silk Road, Xi told Gül, adding that both sides should conduct high-level talks, according to the official. Xi is scheduled to attend a business forum in Istanbul today during which Chinese business leaders were expected to conduct deals totaling close to 500 million dollars, the official said.

China is Turkey’s 15th biggest export market; Turkish companies sold nearly $2.5 billion worth of goods in the People’s Republic last year, a rise of 8.7 percent from the previous year. Some $21.6 billion worth of Chinese goods were imported to Turkey in 2011.

Meanwhile, China and Turkey signed a three-year currency swap agreement worth 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), or 3 billion Turkish Liras, the Turkish Central Bank said.

The accord will facilitate bilateral trade in the Turkish and Chinese currencies and may be extended, the Central Bank in Ankara said in an emailed statement yesterday. China has been expanding currency-swap agreements as it promotes the international use of the yuan. Aiming to increase its exports, Turkey has previously signed a similar agreement with Pakistan and is expected to sign another one with Malaysia soon.

Xi was due to meet Erdoğan as the Daily News went to press late yesterday.