Erdoğan in China for talks about Uighurs, missile program
AP photoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, for talks in Beijing on July 29, in a visit expected to cover trade ties, missile defense program bargaining and spat over the Asian giant’s Uighur minority.
Xi welcomed Erdoğan outside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, where the two leaders inspected a military honor guard before entering the ornate building for their meeting.
“At present, we are moving in a constructive direction, bringing more content to our strategic cooperative relationship,” Erdogan told Xi.
Xi, meanwhile, stressed that Erdogan’s three visits to China as both prime minister and president, showed that he was attentive to Chinese-Turkish relations.
“We consistently advocate that China and Turkey should support each other on major issues and deepen their strategic cooperative relationship,” Xi said.
Turkey entered discussions in 2013 with a Chinese state-run company over a contract for an anti-missile system worth $3.4 billion, raising eyebrows among other NATO members.
A final deal has been elusive, with Erdoğan noting in an interview with China’s state-run Xinhua news agency that “impediments” have emerged after an initial Chinese proposal, but also said that the issue would be on the agenda in Beijing. “Any offer that will enrich this appropriate proposal will be welcomed by us,” he told Xinhua in an interview published July 28.
“I believe this visit will give more momentum to bilateral relations,” he added.
The visit also comes amid tensions between Ankara and Beijing over China’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority, who has Turkish cultural ties and speaks a Turkic language.
China blames Islamist separatists for violence in the Uighur homeland of Xinjiang, while Turkey has repeatedly expressed concerns about Beijing’s treatment of the minority - with Erdogan in 2009 accusing Beijing of “genocide” in the region.
The two countries engaged in a public row this year over Uighurs who fled China to seek refuge in Thailand, with Turkey offering them shelter against Beijing’s wishes.
Thailand said this month that it had deported about 100 Uighurs back to China, after sending more than 170 Uighur women and children to Turkey in late June.
As tensions over the refugees mounted this month, activists stormed the Thai consulate in Istanbul and burnt the Chinese flag outside Beijing’s consulate in the city. China “strongly condemned” the acts.
The state-run China Daily newspaper said in a July 29 editorial that the “Uighur issue... if left unattended, may poison ties and derail cooperation.”
Chinese media have repeatedly cited unnamed sources linking Uighurs to jihadist violence in the Middle East, without giving evidence.
In an op-ed in the state-run Global Times on July 29, writer Wen Dao accused Turkish diplomats of providing “assistance to smuggle Xinjiang Uighur terrorists into the Middle East.”
State television’s main evening news bulletin led with Erdogan’s visit and reported he told Xi that Turkey is also a victim of terrorism.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, Transport Minister Feridun Bilgin, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci and Energy Minister Taner Yıldız are accompanying the president
The three-day trip is Erdogan’s first to the country as president, and follows a previous visit in 2012 as prime minister.
On leaving China on July 30, Erdoğan is scheduled to fly to Indonesia, where he will meet President Joko Widodo and participate in a Turkey-Indonesia Business Forum.