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Turkish FM meets Chinese counterpart, says Turkey would like to become BRICS member

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Beijing on Tuesday, where they discussed a range of issues, including Turkey’s desire to join the BRICS group spearheaded by China.

At a joint news conference on Tuesday Fidan said Turkey seeks to expand its economic ties and sees BRICS, a grouping of heavyweights as well as emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India and China to challenge the dominant US and European-led global governance structures, as a valuable alternative to the European Union for boosting economic prospects.

“Certainly, we would like to become a member of BRICS. So we’ll see how it goes this year,” Fidan said during an event at the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) in Beijing.

Turkey is currently in a customs union with the European Union but has been exploring new opportunities for cooperation with partners like BRICS. Despite efforts to join the EU dating back nearly four decades, Turkey has faced obstacles over issues ranging from human rights to foreign policy. Fidan said BRICS offers significant potential and could serve as a “good alternative” to the EU.

Fidan’s visit also included discussions with Chinese security chief Chen Wenqing and meetings with Vice President Han Zheng.

Fidan’s visit was marked by criticism from human rights groups for ignoring the situation of the Uyghurs in China. Parliaments in several countries, including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have passed motions describing China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide. Human rights organizations estimate that around 1 million Uyghurs have been detained in camps.

Despite these allegations, Beijing denies any abuse and describes the camps as vocational training centers aimed at combating extremism.

Turkey has been a destination for thousands of Uyghurs fleeing China and home to a sizable Uyghur diaspora, numbering some 50,000 and the largest Uyghur diaspora in the world. But a Turkey-China extradition treaty signed in 2017 that is still awaiting ratification by the Turkish parliament has led to fears that it could be used to target Uyghurs in Turkey.

The Uyghurs have sought refuge in Turkey because of their shared cultural ties. Turkey, however, has become less vocal about the plight of the Uyghurs in recent years as it has developed economic ties with China.

During his visit Fidan reiterated Turkey’s support for China’s territorial integrity. “Turkey supports China’s territorial integrity and political sovereignty,” he said, sparking criticism that Turkey is ignoring human rights abuses for economic gain.

Fidan also addressed Turkey’s efforts to secure a cease-fire in Gaza and emphasized the importance of combating terrorism to achieve regional peace and security.

In his discussions on economic cooperation, Fidan underscored the significance of aligning the Middle Corridor for the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), a trade route from Southeast Asia and China to Europe via Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Fidan’s trip includes plans to visit the cities of Urumqi and Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, making him the most senior Turkish official to visit the region since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2012, who visited as prime minister.

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