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Turkey-China look beyond Uyghurs toward BRI and BRICS

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s three-day visit to China signaled improved diplomatic relations, upgraded bilateral trade and investment ties, and a significant step toward Turkey’s accession to the anti-Western BRICS bloc.

Fidan met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other senior Chinese government officials in Beijing from June 3-5.

He later stopped in the Xinjiang cities of Urumqi and Kashgar, where he proposed a solution to the ongoing Uyghur crisis. After a series of attacks, China has since 2017 held over one million Uyghurs in detention facilities Beijing refers to as “reeducation camps.”

Turkey is home to a large Uyghur population, many of whom have fled persecution in Xinjiang. The US and EU, meanwhile, have used the camps as a whipping boy issue to condemn China’s rights record and impose sanctions on businesses that use forced Uyghur labor.

Fidan, the highest-ranking Turkish official to visit Xinjiang since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2012, told his Chinese hosts that “Changing the perception in the world and the Islamic world regarding the cultural rights and lives of the Uyghurs here is beneficial for China, for us and for everyone.”

In Urumqi and Kashgar, which he called “Turkic-Islamic cities”, Fidan and his entourage visited mosques and the Grand Bazaar, and chatted with children in the street.

As reported by Turkey’s state-controlled Anadolu news agency, Fidan said that Ankara regards the Turkic Uyghur people as an important bridge between China and the Islamic world and expressed a desire for them to live in prosperity and peace in China.

“Therefore,” he added, “what we always say is this: we support China’s one-China policy, its territorial integrity and its sovereignty.” His counterpart