Ankara, Beijing can fight terror together

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-1 22:03:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

In a recent visit to Beijing and meeting with Chinese Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun, Turkey's National Police Chief Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz said that Turkey would never allow any organization or person to conduct activities harmful to China's interests on its soil and vowed to beef up law enforcement and security cooperation with China.

Prior to Lekesiz's visit, in November last year 10 Turkish nationals were arrested in Shanghai Pudong International Airport when they attempted to illegally take nine Uyghurs from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region out of China with altered Turkish passports. The Uyghurs included a wanted terrorist, and terrorism-related video materials were found on their cellphones.

Due to the peculiar geographical position of Turkey, some suspected terrorists in China have often used the country as a transit point to join jihadists in Middle East countries such as Iraq and Syria. However, Ankara did not take issues that relate to terrorism in China seriously enough. The desired anti-terrorism cooperation between China and Turkey always comes up in conversations but the action lags behind economic cooperation.

As a member state of NATO, Turkey has to side with the West and similarly takes a double standard in terms of China's efforts to crack down terrorism. Its cultural connections with the Uyghur people also make Ankara believe that it is well positioned to offer some special policies to Uyghurs. Meanwhile, it doesn't see the terror threat as pressing as China does and hence sometimes behaves nonchalantly in countering terrorism.

The arrest in November is not the first time that Turkish passports were reportedly used to organize illegal border-crossing for Uyghurs. Just in October, Malaysian authorities detained 155 Uyghurs in Kuala Lumpur who were carrying Turkish passports suspected to be fake, according to a Reuters report.

However, given tremendous changes in the international anti-terrorism landscape such as rampant Islamic State (IS), China and Turkey are moving closer together on their security concerns and the bilateral relationship has seen rapid progress in political and security sector in addition to economic cooperation.

In this process lies large room for anti-terrorism cooperation. After all, Uyghurs who seek to join the IS extremist group via Turkey will finally pose threats to the security and stability of Turkey itself.

It's reported by Western media that Wu Sike, China's special envoy to the Middle East, estimated in July that there are at least 100 Chinese nationals fighting for IS, but the actual number may be even higher.

Turkey has been turning the focus of its diplomacy away from Europe toward the East. Although the adjustment still acts as a bargaining chip in Turkey's relations with the EU since it is not much favored by the bloc, Ankara now sees it increasingly necessary to work with Beijing, particularly in anti-terrorism sector.

The visit by the Turkish police chief suggests the expansion of the cooperation on countering terrorism and seems to prove that Ankara now becomes more aware of the importance of the issue. Such communication in person with his Chinese counterpart and other senior officials can lead to a good start for addressing urgent issues.

Anti-terrorism cooperation between Beijing and Ankara still stands at a low level. The two sides have yet to build up sound mutual trust and reach consensus on basic principles, and are still working on preliminary negotiations and consultations. On this basis, in the future China and Turkey have to make efforts to move to a higher level of cooperation such as information sharing and joint enforcement to deal with the common and long-term threats and challenges facing the two sides.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Sun Xiaobo based on an interview with Sun Zhuangzhi, secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Research Center, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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