Xi Jinping

Xi seeks stronger ties with Turkey

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am


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Vice-President Xi Jinping has called for closer co-operation between China and Turkey on resolving Middle East issues, despite their opposing views on the crisis in Syria.

Xi landed in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on Monday on the final stop of a trip that also took him to the United States and Ireland.

'In today's complex and changing international situation, the enrichment of the strategic co-operation between China and Turkey is to the benefit of both countries, now and in the long term,' Xi told Turkey's Sabah newspaper.

'A member of the Group of 20 with a growing economy and an important country in the Middle East, Turkey has for a long time tried to bring stability and development to the region and played an active role in trying to solve 'hot' issues,' Xi said, citing Afghanistan and the Iranian nuclear dispute among others.

Turkey has sought to mediate between Western nations and Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme. Ankara has also led support for UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions putting pressure on Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to step down. China and Russia vetoed the resolution in the Security Council and voted against it, along with a small minority of other countries, in the General Assembly.

The Chinese and Russian Security Council vetoes effectively obstructed the international effort to put pressure on Assad, but Xi said China and Turkey had maintained good co-ordination and co-operation in Asian, G20 and UN frameworks.

Xi also met Turkish President Abdullah Gul and the speaker of Turkey's Parliament, Cemil Cicek, yesterday. He will attend a business forum in Istanbul today, where he is likely to be confronted by Turkish businessmen eager to bridge a yawning trade gap.

Xinhua yesterday said Xi 'exchanged views with Gul on bilateral relations and regional and international affairs of common concern'.

They also signed several bilateral economic agreements, as well as a three-year currency swap deal worth 10 billion yuan (HK$12.3 billion).

China has been expanding currency-swap agreements as it promotes the international use of the yuan. The nation last month signed a 35 billion yuan currency swap agreement with the United Arab Emirates, and, in December, entered a 70 billion yuan, three-year deal with Thailand, Bloomberg reported.

Trade between the two countries totalled almost US$25 billion last year and both nations aim to double that by 2015, with a further increase to US$100 billion by 2020. But, Turkish imports of Chinese products accounted for US$21 billion of bilateral trade last year. Turkish exports to China amounted to US$3 billion.

Beijing and Ankara have also been at odds over their positions on the Turkic-speaking Uygur minority in the Xinjiang autonomous region in the northwest. Beijing has accused Uygur exiles in Turkey of pushing for the region's independence from China, while rights groups accused Beijing of abuses in a crackdown after riots three years ago. About 100 Uygurs set two Chinese flags on fire in a protest yesterday.

In the Sabah report, Xi defended the central government's policy and highlighted its efforts to promote economic development and improve people's livelihoods.

In a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny before leaving Ireland, Xi underscored China's support for the stability of the euro and the euro zone. 'China will continue to support, in its own way, the efforts of the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in resolving the sovereign debt crisis in Europe,' Xi said.