Turkish PM Erdoğan starts China visit in Urumqi
AA photoTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began a landmark trip to China, arriving in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, April 7 for a four-day official visit. It is the first visit in 27 years of a Turkish prime minister to China, and Erdoğan is the first Turkish prime minister to visit the autonomous Uighur region of Xinjiang.
Accompanied by his wife, Emine Erdoğan, and his daughter, Sümeyye Erdoğan, and some ministers, Erdoğan toured the Urumqi international public bazaar, visited the Grand Mosque and chatted with Uighur Turks in the local market and tasted some dried fruits.
Turkey shares linguistic and religious links with the Uighur community. The region’s Muslim-majority population, which shares ethnic bonds with Turkey, has long complained of oppression. Ankara accepts China’s sovereignty over Xinjiang, but heavily criticized the 2009 violence in the region. Erdoğan described the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang as “almost genocide” in 2009.
China blamed the ethnic unrest on Uighurs, particularly Rebiya Kadeer, the president of the World Uighur Congress, who is based in the United States. Kadeer praised Turkey for condemning China for a crackdown targeting Uighurs, saying China was using its economic power to keep the world from seriously reacting to the Xinjiang incidents. Kadeer was denied a Turkish visa in 2006 and 2007. In 2009, amid the Chinese crackdown, Erdoğan said if Kadeer were to apply for a visa, Turkey would provide it.
Erdoğan is expected to proceed to Beijing and Shanghai. In Beijing, Erdoğan will hold talks with his counterpart Wen Jiabao, President Hu Jintao, Vice President Xi Jinping. The turmoil in Syria is expected to be high on the agenda. Erdoğan will then travel on to Shanghai, China’s economic hub.