Turkish President Visits China Amid Uighur Tensions

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives a press conference in Turkish-occupied Nicosia, Cyprus. EPA/STRINGER

BEIJING (DPA) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was due in China on Wednesday for his first state visit to the country, amid a recent spike in tensions over the treatment of a minority group.

Erdogan's visit follows protests in Turkey over the rights of mostly Muslim Uighurs in China's far-west to observe Ramadan rituals.

In mid-June, Chinese government websites asked officials, teachers and students in the Xinjiang region, which has China's largest Uighur population, not to observe the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

There were also protests in Turkey earlier this month against the repatriation of about 100 Uighurs to China after being held in detention in Bangkok.

The unrest led the Chinese government to warn its citizens to avoid walking around on their own while in Turkey, while Chinese official media slammed Turkish news outlets for inflaming tensions and being "driven by ulterior motives."

Turkey's plan to acquire a new missile defence system was also expected to be on the agenda when Erdogan meets Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday that Turkey was open to an improved bid from China in the missile defense tender.

Turkey is facing a worsened security situation at home, after being hit by a series of terrorist attacks in the past month, one of which was attributed to the Islamic State extremist group, while another was claimed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

More positive Chinese propaganda in the run-up to Erdogan's visit has been touting Turkey's status as a terminus for its grand Silk Road project to stimulate business ties with Central Asia and Europe.

More than 100 businessmen are accompanying Erdogan during the trip, which also aims to increase exports to China from its current level of 2.8 billion dollars a year.

Since agreeing to strategic cooperation in 2010, China has become Turkey's third-largest trading partner after Germany and Russia, with 28.6 billion dollars in trade volume last year.

Erdogan is also due to visit Indonesia as part of a four-day Asian trip.

 

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