Ties between Turkey and China that were strained last year following unrest in western China’s Xinjiang region are back on track, with both countries looking to raise their relationship to the strategic partnership level, Turkey’s foreign minister said Tuesday.
“We are determined to maintain the momentum in ties,” said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. “A paradigm of Turkish-Chinese cooperation is coming to life in one sense.”
Turkey and China have agreed on an action plan for strategic cooperation on a wide range of topics, including energy, culture and transportation, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Tuesday in Beijing following his official meetings.
As the two countries mark the 40th anniversary of their relationship next year, Turkey will declare 2011 China Year, he said, adding that the Chinese president was expected to visit Ankara to mark the occasion. The two countries also agreed that 20l2 would be Turkey Year in China.
China’s prime minister visited Turkey in October, becoming the first to do so in eight years, while President Abdullah Gül’s 2009 trip to China was the first time a Turkish president had visited the Far Eastern country in 14 years.
The two countries’ foreign ministries will also establish a joint-working committee scheduled to meet for the first time in early 2011. Davutoğlu said the mechanism would help increase the number of high-level visits between the two countries and that every year, a top-level visit would take place in either Turkey or China.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also plans to visit China, most likely in the summer of 2011.
Turkey will also add more consulates throughout China, with its third consulate set to open in Guangzhou as soon as possible, the foreign minister said. Turkey currently maintains representatives in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
“China is almost a continent for us. We want to increase the number of Turkish consulates,” Davutoğlu said.
Asked if Turkey would open a consulate in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, Davutoğlu said, “We are determined to take every step that will bring the Turkish and Chinese peoples closer and open consulates all over China.”
Davutoğlu said both Turkey and China had agreed that the Xinjiang region was a bridge of friendship between the two countries. “Uighur Turks, with whom we have close historic and cultural bonds, live in Kashgar and Urumqi. It was important that an atmosphere of calm and peace was achieved in the region after the unrest last year.”
Turkey’s Yunus Emre Foundation is also set to open an office in China, which will introduce the Far East to Turkish culture.
Burgeoning trade and economic relations
Beijing and Ankara have agreed to increase trade volume to $50 billion by 2015 and $100 billion by 2020. Trade is currently heavily in China’s favor, but Davutoğlu said a Chinese importers’ delegation’s scheduled visit to Turkey would help close the trade gap.
The two countries also agreed to use rail and air transportation more effectively and Davutoğlu gave a green light for direct flights from Turkey to Urumqi and Xi’an. “We are determined to revive the historic Silk Road,” he said.
Energy is another area in which the two countries have agreed to expand cooperation, but analysts have warned that rivalries over energy resources in the Caspian may yet emerge. Davutoğlu said both Turkey and China were growing economies that both needed energy.
“Low prices are to the favor of the two countries… Stability prevailing in energy-rich regions, including the Middle East and Central Asia will benefit the two countries,” he said, adding that nuclear energy was also an area of potential cooperation.
Turkey and China have developed closer attitudes regarding the resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China voted in favor of sanctions against Iran while Turkey voted against them, standing behind the swap deal it brokered with Brazil.
“We discussed Iran’s nuclear program in detail… Our views are very close,” Davutoğlu said.