Turkey was blocked from visiting Xinjiang for 5 years, says Çavuşoğlu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu Turkey

Turkey’s support for the Uyghur minority has affected ties with China, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Thursday, adding that the Turkish ambassador was not allowed to visit the Uyghur region despite several attempts.

Addressing at an end-of-year press briefing in the capital Ankara, the minister questioned: “They said that a humanitarian delegation from Turkey could come and examine (the region). It's been five years since (Chinese President) Xi (Jinping) proposed this. Why have you been preventing this delegation from visiting for five years, why don't you cooperate?"

"Turkish-Chinese ties have suffered over Beijing being disturbed by our attitude on the Turkic Uyghurs issue. They have extradition requests for people who are our citizens, who live in Turkey all the time. Therefore, we don't grant any such requests," Çavuşoğlu added.

Rebuffing claims that Turkey Uyghurs are being extradited to China, Çavuşoğlu called such claims "a total lie."

"We defend Turkic Uyghur's rights in the international arena and this disturbs China. But this is a humanitarian issue," he said, citing a U.N. Human Rights Council report on Turkic Uyghurs in China released in September.

The report "reveals all (human rights) violations. We have to react to it," he added.

Stressing that Turkey wants to cooperate with China in a transparent manner, Cavusoglu maintained: "Our ambassador hasn't been there (Xinjiang) yet, they don't allow him."

Chinese authorities do not allow the ambassador in Beijing to freely visit the region where Uyghur Turks live instead want him to follow a "program that they provide."

"Why should we become a tool for China's propaganda? We want to cooperate, we don't see this as a political issue. We are categorically not anti-Chinese. We have always said that we support the One-China policy," Çavuşoğlu highlighted, referring to the dispute over Taiwan.

In September the U.N. released a report on alleged human rights violations of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China, concluding that the country may have committed crimes against humanity.

The report found that mass detentions in China's Xinjiang region from 2017 to 2019 were marked by credible documentation of torture, sexual violence and forced labor, as well as forced abortions and sterilizations.

The 48-page report concluded that "serious human rights violations" were committed by the Chinese government against the Uyghurs and other Muslims under China's policies to fight terrorism and extremism.