Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he communicated Turkey’s concerns about the treatment of the Uyghur ethnic group to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during talks in Beijing.
“We conveyed our views, expectations, and sensitivities regarding the issues on our agenda, especially the Uyghur Turks,” Cavusoglu said after the talks on January 12, adding that the two sides also discussed economic cooperation.
The Chinese government has been accused of establishing a network of detention camps holding more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic groups in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
The United States and many rights groups have alleged that Beijing is carrying out genocide against the Uyghurs. China denies abuses in Xinjiang and says it is “reeducating” Uyghurs to prevent radical Islam and terrorism.
The issue is sensitive for Turkey because the Turkic Uyghurs share ethnic, religious, and linguistic connections that are a domestic political issue among Turkish nationalists and conservatives.
But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of largely remaining silent on the plight of Uyghurs due to economic ties and other interests with the world’s second largest economy.
In July, Erdogan held a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in which he said it was important that Uyghurs live in peace as “equal citizens of China” but that Turkey respects China’s national sovereignty.
An estimated 50,000 Uyghurs live in Turkey, the largest diaspora outside of Central Asia.