Erdogan, Xi laud 'strategic cooperative ties'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left), accompanied by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, being welcomed by a group of children in Beijing yesterday. Mr Xi stressed that Mr Erdogan's three visits to China as both premier and president showed he was at
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left), accompanied by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, being welcomed by a group of children in Beijing yesterday. Mr Xi stressed that Mr Erdogan's three visits to China as both premier and president showed he was attentive to bilateral ties.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has met Chinese leaders for talks in Beijing, a day after securing Nato's backing for Ankara's fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Ankara is expanding a cross-border campaign against ISIS in Syria, and also attacking positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

President Xi Jinping yesterday welcomed Mr Erdogan outside Beijing's Great Hall of the People, where the two leaders inspected a military guard of honour.

"At present we are moving in a constructive direction bringing more content to our strategic cooperative relationship," Mr Erdogan told Mr Xi. The Chinese leader stressed that Mr Erdogan's three visits to China as both premier and president showed he was attentive to Chinese-Turkish relations.

"We consistently advocate that China and Turkey should support each other on major issues and deepen their strategic cooperative relationship," Mr Xi said.

Earlier, Mr Erdogan met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

"I believe all the various agreements we will sign will make this the most significant visit since we established strategic cooperative relations," Mr Erdogan told Mr Li.

Turkey entered into talks in 2013 with a Chinese state-run firm over a contract for an anti-missile system worth US$3.4 billion (S$4.6 billion), raising eyebrows in Nato. A final deal has proven elusive, with Mr Erdogan noting "impediments" emerged after an initial Chinese proposal, but he said the issue would be on the agenda in Beijing.

The visit also comes amid tensions between Ankara and Beijing over China's mostly Muslim Uighur minority, who have cultural ties with Turkey. China blames Islamist separatists for violence in the Uighur homeland of Xinjiang, while Turkey has repeatedly expressed concerns about Beijing's treatment of the minority - with Mr Erdogan in 2009 accusing Beijing of "genocide". The two countries engaged in a public row this year over Uighurs who fled China to seek refuge in Thailand, with Turkey offering them shelter.

Chinese deputy foreign minister Zhang Ming told reporters Mr Erdogan stressed to Mr Xi that Turkey regarded the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which Beijing says is waging a violent campaign for an independent Xinjiang, as a terror group. "He said... Turkey will not allow anyone to use Turkey's territory to do anything to harm China's national interests and security," Mr Zhang said.

Boosting Turkish exports to China is also likely to be high among Mr Erdogan's goals, with Turkey running a large trade deficit with the world's second-largest economy, Chinese statistics show. Turkey has joined the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Erdogan, Xi laud 'strategic cooperative ties''. Print Edition | Subscribe