| 18 May 2024, Saturday |

Turkey’s Erdogan, China’s Xi discuss Uyghurs in phone call, Turkish Presidency reports

On Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reminded his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that it is crucial for Turkey for Uyghur Muslims to live in peace as “equal citizens of China,” but that Turkey respects China’s sovereignty.

According to a statement from the Turkish presidency, Erdogan made the remarks during a phone discussion with Xi during which the two leaders discussed bilateral and regional matters.

Over a million individuals, mostly from the Turkic language-speaking Uyghur and other Muslim minorities, have been incarcerated in a huge system of camps in China’s western Xinjiang province in recent years, according to UN experts and rights groups.

China initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centers and are designed to combat extremism. It denies all accusations of abuse.

“Erdogan pointed out that it was important for Turkey that Uyghur Turks live in prosperity and peace as equal citizens of China. He voiced Turkey’s respect for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Turkish presidency statement said.

Erdogan told Xi that there was high potential for commercial and diplomatic ties between Turkey and China and the two leaders discussed areas including energy, trade, transportation and health, according to the statement.

Some of the 40,000 Uyghurs living in Turkey have criticized Ankara’s approach to China after the two nations agreed an extradition treaty last year. Turkey’s foreign minister said in March the deal was similar to those Turkey has with other states and denied it would lead to Uyghurs being sent back to China.

Hundreds of Uyghurs protested against the treatment of their ethnic kin in China during a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Ankara in March.

Some Turkish opposition leaders have accused Turkey’s government of overlooking Uyghur rights in favor of other interests with China, which the government denies.

In April, Turkey summoned China’s Ambassador after his embassy said it had the right to respond to Turkish opposition leaders who criticized China’s treatment of Uyghurs.

  • Reuters