Turkish president opposes terror against China

By Hu Qingyun Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-30 0:48:38

Sino-Turkish leaders talk amid tension over Xinjiang

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspect Chinese honor guards during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. Erdogan is on a visit to China from Wednesday to Thursday. Photo: AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowed to cooperate with China to fight against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) during his visit to Beijing, a clear signal that observers say indicates Turkey is ready to remove obstacles in Sino-Turkish ties and seek closer economic cooperation.

During his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Erdogan said that Turkey will respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, oppose any terrorist acts against China, including those launched by ETIM, and will not allow any force to harm Sino-Turkish ties. He added that Turkey is also a victim of terrorism, China Central Television reported.

Erdogan is making a two-day visit to China from Wednesday to Thursday, his first State visit since he was elected president in August 2014.

Zan Tao, an expert on Turkey affairs and an associate professor at Peking University, told the Global Times that Erdogan's remarks about ETIM are very clear and strong, compared with his previous remarks over similar matters.

"Erdogan has clearly distinguished ETIM from other Uyghur people in Turkey and in China by regarding them as terrorists. It demonstrates that he has released the attitude toward ETIM which was an obstacle in promoting Sino-Turkish cooperation," Zan said.

China has previously stated that the terrorism plaguing Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is linked to overseas-based ETIM forces.

Closer exchanges

Xi on Wednesday also stressed that China appreciated Erdogan's frequent remarks about not allowing anyone to use Turkey's territory to do anything to damage China's national interests and security, and China is willing to boost security cooperation with Turkey.

"China supports closer exchanges between the two countries' legislature and government departments to improve policy understanding and mutual political trust, so as to ensure Sino-Turkish ties always move forward on the right track," Xi said.

Erdogan's visit comes at a sensitive time after recent anti-Chinese protests in Turkey following media reports that alleged China had banned Uyghur Muslims, a Turkic-language ethnic group, from fasting during Ramadan. Previous Chinese media reports also noted that some Turkish diplomatic officials assisted terrorists from Xinjiang to join Islamic State jihadist groups through Turkey.

Li Weijian, an expert at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, echoed Zan, saying that Xi's stress on cooperation had "alerted" Turkey not to impede economic cooperation and influence bilateral relations due to its attitude toward terrorists and Xinjiang-related topics.

"His remarks are explanations to China after recent incidents, which are aimed at maintaining a stable relationship between the two countries," Li added.

The meeting between Xi and Erdogan also shows that the two countries have more opportunities to cooperate in combating terrorism, as Turkey needs China's support in combating the Islamic State (IS), Zan told the Global Times.

Ankara is expanding a cross-border campaign against the IS group in Syria, and also attacking positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq after deadly attacks inside Turkey.

Turkey looks East

Experts noted that economic development will be another important issue during Erdogan's visit, as Turkey could play a key role in China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative.

Turkey has a relatively good economic environment in the Middle East and close links with NATO and the EU, said Li. With Turkey's cooperation, China can expand trade with Europe and the Middle East. 

China is Turkey's second-largest trade partner, with bilateral trade surpassing $23 billion in 2014.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also met with Erdogan on Wednesday. China hopes to strengthen cooperation with Turkey in areas including new energy, light manufacturing, communication and railways, said the premier, who urged Turkey to offer convenience for Chinese investment.

Erdogan said that Turkey welcomed China's expanded investment in Turkey in areas including infrastructure, energy, communication, finance and aviation. Turkey expects to become a manufacturing and logistics base for Chinese enterprises,  Erdogan said.  

Turkey, which is recovering from an economic slowdown, needs to expand Chinese investment to fulfill Erdogan's plan to develop Turkey into one of the top 10 economies in the world by 2023, Li Weijian said.

Moreover, as Turkey has not yet been successful in its bid to join the EU, it has turned its eye to the East and is showing great interest in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Li Weijian added.

Posted in: Politics, Diplomacy

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