China’s VP, Turkish President Discuss Trade, Syria

Posted February 21st, 2012 at 3:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is in Turkey for three days of talks on bilateral and regional issues, but the ongoing fighting in Syria topped the agenda.

Ahead of Xi's meeting with President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayiip Erdogan in Ankara Tuesday, dozens of activists from China's Muslim Uighur minority protested near the hotel where the Chinese official was staying and burnt Chinese flags. The demonstrators chanted slogans against Beijing's treatment of the Turkic-speaking Uighur people in China's western Xinjiang province.

In an interview with a Turkish newspaper, Xi praised Ankara's efforts to resolve Middle East conflicts, including continuing unrest in Syria and Iran's controversial nuclear program. But the two countries remain deeply divided about the situation in Syria.

Prime Minister Erdogan condemned China and Russia for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria that would have endorsed an Arab League plan for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside and a unity government to be formed leading to democratic elections.

Ankara also has reportedly lobbied unsuccessfully for Beijing to attend an international meeting later this month in Tunisia to discuss the Syrian crisis.

In Istanbul Wednesday, the Chinese vice president is scheduled to attend a business forum, accompanied by a large business delegation.

Turkey is Xi's last stop on his three-nation tour that also took him to the United States and Ireland. He is expected to become China's Communist Party leader later this year and president in 2013.