China acknowledged differences with Turkey over their approach to the continuing violence in Syria, ahead of talks scheduled for yesterday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is making a rare official visit to Beijing.
China has joined Russia in blocking attempts by the US and others at the UN to compel Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to end violence against political opponents waging a 13-month uprising. That has drawn accusations Beijing is providing political cover for al-Assad, with whom it has long enjoyed friendly relations.
Turkey, on the other hand, has been one of al-Assad’s most active critics and Erdogan said last week that Ankara was considering taking unspecified steps if al-Assad’s forces did not pull out of towns and cities by today as agreed.
The truce plan, devised by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, effectively collapsed on Sunday after al-Assad’s government raised new, last-minute demands that were swiftly rejected by the country’s largest rebel group.
Syria is expected to feature in talks scheduled for yesterday between Erdogan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Liu Weimin (劉為民) said.
“Although we do not share complete agreement, we agree that we should play a constructive role,” Liu told reporters at a regularly scheduled briefing.
China wants an immediate end to violence, but hoped the international community would give Annan more time to see the ceasefire agreement to fruition, Liu said.
“We think the final resolution needs all sides to sit down and talk,” he added.
Erdogan’s visit is the first to China in 27 years by a Turkish prime minister and follows a February trip by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) to Ankara and Istanbul, where the countries signed deals worth billions of US dollars.
Erdogan is leading a delegation of 300 businessmen in hopes of garnering more Chinese investment in Turkey and a boost in Turkish exports to China’s booming economy. Areas of hoped-for cooperation include energy, construction, automobiles, banking and telecommunications.
Erdogan first stopped on Sunday in Urumqi, capital of China’s Xinjiang region, whose native Muslim Uighur ethnic group share linguistic and cultural links with Turks, and where Turkey plans to establish an industrial zone.
Ethnic tensions have led to violence in the region in recent years, and relations between China and Turkey dipped in 2009 when Erdogan described China’s use of overwhelming force against Uighur protesters as a type of genocide.
However, the sides sought to downplay any contentious issues during Xi’s visit.
Following yesterday’s talks with Wen, Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) today and travel to Shanghai, China’s financial center.