China and Turkey pledged yesterday to deepen co-operation in trade and nuclear energy development, as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Beijing for talks to boost business and political ties.
Erdogan's visit - the first to China in 27 years by a Turkish leader, following a February trip to Turkey by Vice-President Xi Jinping - came despite the two countries' differences over the deadly crackdown in Syria and over Beijing's handling of Uygurs in the restive Xinjiang autonomous region.
Sino-Turkish ties were plagued in 2009 after violence erupted in Xinjiang, as the Uygurs there share linguistic and religious links with Turks. Erdogan described Beijing's handling of the riots as 'genocide'.
Erdogan earlier spent a day in Urumqi , Xinjiang's capital, meeting regional party chief Zhang Chunxian .
Premier Wen Jiabao , who hosted a welcoming ceremony for Erdogan at the Great Hall of the People yesterday, said both sides showed 'mutual understanding and support in issues related to sovereignty and territorial integrity'.
'It is our common wish to continue deepening the friendship and co-operation between China and Turkey,' Wen said in his talks with Erdogan. Wen also noted that Erdogan was the first Turkish prime minister to visit Xinjiang.
Wen added that the two sides should deepen co-operation in nuclear energy, aviation and hi-tech development, and cultural exchanges.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan told the South China Morning Post earlier that Turkey wanted to complete three nuclear plants before 2023, and that Ankara was in talks with China, South Korea and Japan to build two of the plants. Babacan said Turkey was ready to strengthen its strategic relationship with Beijing and was not worried about upsetting its traditional allies - the US and Europe.
Xiao Xian, vice-president of the Chinese Association for Middle East Studies, said Turkey has long focused its diplomatic efforts on strengthening ties with countries in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as Russia and the US, but Ankara has looked to East Asia in recent years following the economic boom in the region.
'China was not an important player in Turkey's diplomacy,' he said. 'But Ankara seeks deepening co-operation with Beijing as it acknowledges the economic development of China.
Li Guofu, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Sino-Turkish ties have been affected by political and economic instability in Turkey, as well as Xinjiang.
'But both China and Turkey have improved their economies in recent years, and the two countries share a lot of common interests,' he said.
The countries attempted to downplay problems in Xinjiang during Xi's February trip, with Xi saying he appreciated Ankara's stance that Xinjiang was an inalienable part of China, as well as Ankara's measures to oppose anyone in Turkey undermining China's sovereignty.
Analysts say Xinjiang is unlikely to have a significant impact on ties.
'Turkey has a clear stance on Xinjiang, and this helps in building a good foundation for bilateral ties,' Li said.