Chinese President Xi Jinping has told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the two countries should deepen counter-terrorism cooperation, amid Chinese concern about ethnic Uighurs from its Xinjiang region fighting with militants in the Middle East.
Uighurs are a largely Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority from China’s western Xinjiang region. Hundreds, possibly thousands, keen to escape unrest in Xinjiang, have travelled clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey, where many see themselves as sharing religious and cultural ties.
Beijing says some Uighurs then end up fighting with Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria. Meeting on the sidelines of a summit about China’s new Silk Road plan, Xi told Erdoğan that developing strategic cooperation was in the interests of both countries, China’s foreign ministry said late on May 13.
“In order to promote even greater development of relations, China and Turkey must respect and give consideration to each other’s core concerns, and deepen security and counter-terrorism cooperation,” the ministry cited Xi as saying. Meanwhile, Erdoğan said on May 14 that China’s Belt and Road initiative to re-create the Silk Road will help defeat terrorism, adding that Turkey would lend all manner of support to the project, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported.
“This initiative, particularly against rising terrorism in the world, will be an initiative that will almost eradicate terrorism. I believe this cooperation which will benefit everyone will succeed as a model. We, as Turkey, are ready to give all kinds of support for it,” Erdoğan said at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. “I believe that this initiative, also called the New Silk Road, will mark the future in an effort to link Asia, Europe, Africa and even South America,” he added.