Syria highlighted on Turkish PM's China visit

Syria highlighted on Turkish PM's China visit

BEIJING- The Associated Press
Syria highlighted on Turkish PMs China visit

The Turkish national flag flies in front of the giant portrait of former Chairman Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 9, 2012. REUTERS Photo

China acknowledged differences with Turkey over their approach to the continuing violence in Syria, ahead of talks today with Turkey's leader, who is making a rare official visit to Beijing.

China has joined Russia in blocking attempts by the U.S. and others at the United Nations to compel President Bashar Assad's regime to end violence against political opponents waging a 13-month uprising. That has drawn accusations that Beijing is providing political cover for Assad, with whom it has long enjoyed friendly relations.

Turkey, on the other hand, has been one of Assad's most active critics and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that Ankara was considering taking unspecified steps if Assad's forces do not pull out of towns and cities by Tuesday as agreed.

The truce plan, devised by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, effectively collapsed Sunday after Assad's government raised new, last-minute demands that were swiftly rejected by the country's largest rebel group.

Syria is expected to feature in talks later Monday between Erdoğan and Premier Wen Jiabao, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin.

"Although we don't share complete agreement, we agree that we should play a constructive role," Liu told reporters at a regularly scheduled briefing.

Liu said China wants an immediate end to violence and hopes the international community will give Annan more time to see the cease-fire agreement to fruition.

"We think the final resolution needs all sides to sit down and talk," he said.

Erdoğan's visit is the first to China in 27 years by a Turkish premier and follows a February trip by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to Ankara and Istanbul, where the countries signed deals worth billions of dollars.

Erdoğan is leading a delegation of 300 businessmen in hopes of garnering more Chinese investment in Turkey and a boost in Turkish exports to China's booming economy. Areas for hoped-for cooperation include energy, construction, autos, banking, and telecommunications.

Erdoğan first stopped on Sunday in Urumqi, capital of China's far west Xinjiang region, whose native Muslim Uighur ethnic group share linguistic and cultural links with Turks and where Turkey plans to set up an industrial zone.

Ethnic tensions have led to violence in the region in recent years, and relations between China and Turkey dipped in 2009 when Erdoğan described China's use of overwhelming force against Uighur protesters as a type of genocide.

The sides sought to downplay any contentious issues during Xi's visit.

Following Monday's talks with Wen, Erdoğan was to meet with President Hu Jintao on Tuesday. He is later scheduled to travel to Shanghai, China's financial center.