Turkey, China pledge se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion as ties warm

The Washington Times Daily - - FROM PAGE ONE - BY GERRY SHIH

BEI­JING | Turkey’s top diplo­mat vowed Thurs­day to root out mil­i­tants plot­ting against China, sig­nal­ing closer co­op­er­a­tion against sus­pected Uighur mil­i­tants hail­ing from China’s far west who have long been a sore point in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.

Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu told re­porters dur­ing a visit to Bei­jing that his gov­ern­ment would treat threats to China’s se­cu­rity as threats to it­self and would not al­low any “an­tiChina ac­tiv­ity in­side Turkey or ter­ri­tory con­trolled by Turkey.”

Mr. Cavu­soglu’s tough com­ments, which came af­ter a meet­ing and warm hand­shakes with his Chi­nese coun­ter­part Wang Yi, were seen as re­fer­ring to China’s Uighur eth­nic mi­nor­ity, a Tur­kic peo­ple who share cul­tural and lin­guis­tic ties with Ana­to­lian Turks.

Turkey and China have in re­cent years pledged to co­op­er­ate on se­cu­rity and counter-ter­ror­ism ef­forts, though ex­perts say such ties are also bal­anced by mu­tual sus­pi­cion. Re­la­tions be­tween Ankara and Bei­jing have been strained by Turkey’s sup­port for groups fight­ing Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad — a China ally — and its shel­ter­ing of Uighur refugees.

Hu­man rights groups have long ac­cused China of op­press­ing its roughly 10 mil­lion Uighurs with se­vere re­stric­tions on lan­guage, cul­ture and re­li­gion and in­flam­ing a cy­cle of re­sent­ment and rad­i­cal­iza­tion. Hun­dreds have died in Xin­jiang in vi­o­lent clashes in re­cent years and China now keeps the re­gion, with a land area com­pa­ra­ble to Iran, un­der a con­stant lock­down with mas­sive polic­ing and sur­veil­lance ef­forts that ac­tivists say are rife with abuse.

Thou­sands of Uighurs have fled China in re­cent years to seek asy­lum in Turkey, with many trav­el­ing on to Syria to join Is­lamic mil­i­tant groups or sim­ply to es­cape per­se­cu­tion and find a new home. In re­sponse, China has pressed al­lies in­clud­ing Rus­sia and Syria to share in­tel­li­gence about Uighur mil­i­tants fight­ing in Syria and help avert their re­turn to strike at China.

Hun­dreds of Uighurs, if not far more, are be­lieved to have joined the al Qaedaaf­fil­i­ated Nusra Front while others have pledged al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State group or sided with smaller mil­i­tant fac­tions in the Syr­ian con­flict.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan had po­si­tioned him­self as a cham­pion of Tur­kic peo­ples and in 2009 ac­cused Bei­jing of com­mit­ting “geno­cide” to­ward Uighurs, at­tract­ing a flurry of head­lines and in­fu­ri­at­ing Bei­jing. The two gov­ern­ments clashed again in 2015 when Turkey of­fered asy­lum to Uighur refugees de­tained in Thai­land whom China had de­manded back.

Since then, how­ever, the China-Turkey re­la­tion­ship has warmed amid a broader po­lit­i­cal re­align­ment. China, Rus­sia and Turkey have strength­ened their part­ner­ship while Mr. Er­do­gan has pulled away from the or­bit of Euro­pean gov­ern­ments amid dis­putes over hu­man rights and other is­sues.

China has ex­pressed open­ness to­ward Turkey, a mem­ber of NATO, join­ing the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion, a se­cu­rity al­liance that in­cludes Rus­sia and sev­eral cen­tral Asian states that is seen as a coun­ter­weight to NATO.

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