Turkey prez Erdogan backs China crackdown on Uyghur militants

In a major boost to its crackdown against separatists in Xinjiang, China today won the support of Turkey as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will not allow Uyghur extremists to operate from its soil.

Visiting Beijing in the immediate backdrop of the offensive against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Erdogan assured his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping today that Turkey is opposed to any forms of terrorism against China and any acts of sabotage affecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Turkey is opposed to East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) attacks against China. Turkey will not allow extremist and terrorist groups to affect relations with China,” state- run CCTV quoted Erdogan as telling Xi during their talks.

Erdogan’s remarks against ETIM, the Uyghur separatist outfit which has carried out deadly attacks in Xinjiang and other cities including Beijing in recent years, are seen as a boost to China’s crackdown against the militants.

In the last few years China has ramped up security all over the country especially in Xinjiang, home to about 11 million Turkic-speaking Uyghur Muslims who have ethnic links with Turkey.

Violent protests rocked Istanbul this month as protesters targeted the Chinese consulate and a Chinese restaurant.

A group of Korean tourists who were mistaken for Chinese people also faced the wrath of the protesters after media reports alleged that China had banned Uyghur Muslims from observing Ramzan.

China denied the allegations, stating that all ethnic groups are entitled to freedom of religious belief. Turkey said it was “deeply concerned” over such reports.

Xinjiang, bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Afghanistan bore the brunt of Uyghur militancy. In recent years, China alleged that hundreds of Uyghurs crossed over to Turkey to join IS and later returned home to cause violence.

As China ramped up pressure Pakistan too is cracking down on ETIM bases in its tribal areas.

Erdogan also brought with him a delegation of around 100 businesspeople and held talks with Chinese leaders increase bilateral trade which stands around USD 24 billion.

Both Xi and Premier Li Keqiang in their talks with Erdogan discussed initiatives for Turkey to take part in a big way in China’s Silk Road initiatives.

Also, state-run Global Times today reported that Turkey is open to an improved bid from China in a long-range missile defence system tender from which it backed out earlier.

Asked about the long-running talks between the two countries over the Chinese surface-to-air missile system ahead of his visit, Erdogan said that China offered the “most appropriate” price of any missile supplier and has also offered to share missile technology with Turkey.

Turkey accepted China’s bid in 2013 for a USD 3.4 billion anti-missile system but the deal has not been signed yet.

Turkey has also been in talks with US’ Raytheon, the maker of the Patriot missiles and with French-Italian company Eurosam over their missile system.