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

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

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan On Wednesday, he concluded a three-day visit to China, where he met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Vice President Han Zheng and other officials. He also traveled 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 with the Uyghurs and many members of the community are on the run human rights violations in the region, have found refuge in Turkey.

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

The Turkish government, which once fiercely criticized China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, has softened its criticism as it developed stronger economic ties 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” regarding the protection of the cultural rights of Uyghurs, the official said.

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

China is Turkey’s third largest trading partner. Ankara is trying to reduce a trade imbalance that favors China, urging the country to import more Turkish agricultural products, increase investment and motivate more Chinese tourists to visit Turkey, the official said.

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