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Turkey urges Chinese authorities to protect the cultural rights of minority Muslim Uyghurs

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister has urged Chinese authorities to protect the cultural rights of minority Muslim Uyghurs in China’s western Xinjiang province and allow them to “live their values,” a Turkish official said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Wednesday concluded a three-day visit to China, where he met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, Vice President Han Zheng and other officials. He also travelled to the cities of Urumqi and Kashgar in Xinjiang province, becoming the first Turkish official to travel to the region since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited in 2012.

Turkey has cultural and ethnic ties to the Uyghurs and many members of the community, fleeing human rights violations in the region, have found sanctuary in Turkey.

China is accused of sending more than a million Uyghurs and other largely Muslim minorities into prisons and detention camps. Beijing denies human rights abuses and says the centers were for vocational training.

The Turkish government, which once vehemently criticized China’s treatment of Uyghurs, has moderated its criticism as it developed stronger economic relations with Beijing.

Fidan told Chinese officials during his meetings that Turkey respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Turkish official said. But the minister added that the Turkish people and the Islamic world have “sensitivities” concerning the protection of Uyghurs’ cultural rights, according to the official.

Fidan conveyed the message that removing the concerns “would be of great benefit to everyone,” according to the official, who provided the information on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

China is Turkey’s third-largest