Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the Turkish government has held discussions assessing new proposals from the Chinese government concerning the purchase of long-range missiles and both governments have decided to develop their commercial ties, which are currently valued at $100 billion.
Erdogan’s China visit has continued for two days and has a heavy agenda ranging from economic-military cooperation to political issues, including the status of the Turkic Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority in China.
Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the proposed missile sale during a meeting and agreed that technical talks concerning the program will be continued by defence industry officials. The officials will tackle issues such as joint production, technological transfer, the pricing of the weapons, and methods of delivery.
Before leaving for China, Erdogan saying that, “The most appropriate proposal regarding the missiles has been made by the People’s Republic of China,” when asked about Turkish-Chinese discussions connected to the missiles in a press conference on July 28 in Ankara.
Erdogan said, “There have been some developments which caused setbacks following the previous talks. But we will discuss these issues again with the Chinese leadership during this visit.”
“If the Chinese leadership improves its previous offer, it would be much more feasible for us. What really matters is the mutual interests of the countries, which cannot be sidelined at all,” he added.
Former Turkish defence minister Ismet Yilmaz declared in late February that Turkey could favor China for an anti-missile defence program over other NATO members, signaling that Turkey may begin to operate outside of NATO’s infrastructure and ringing alarm bells in the alliance’s headquarters.
Turkey previously announced in 2013 that the Chinese bidder for the missile defence program was the country’s state-run China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation. The missile system is valued at $3.4 billion.
Erdogan said on Thursday that, “We approach our relations with China with a strategic view. This visit will serve to strengthen mutual trust and understanding between the countries and solidify friendship between our peoples.”
For his part, Xi stated that, “We consistently advocate that China and Turkey should support each other on major issues and deepen their strategic-cooperative relationship,” Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported.
The delegations from Turkey and China addressed how both countries could increase the volume of investments between their respective countries and discussed ways to empower the Silk Road Economic Belt Project.
The project is a Chinese government economic development program within which China aims to integrate trade and investment in the Eurasian geographic region.
During the visit, both sides worked on the continuation and development of the project in detail and made several decisions regarding it Turkish media reported. Erdogan has said that both countries should support the current project.
He also said that the countries should use a common “national currency” in order to ease commercial relations and establish a Turkish-Chinese university to deepen mutual ties further, Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper noted.
The daily reported that Turkey’s Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci suggested during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Gao Hucheng that the countries could establish a “special free-trade zone” to help Chinese entrepreneurs conduct trade and production activities involving Turkey.
A hundred Turkish businessmen are currently accompanying the Turkish president during his China visit.
The countries have also signed several agreements connected to trade and societal relations.
Erdogan also took note of Chinese concerns regarding Turkish objections to the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China. There has recently been anger in Turkey due to media reports that the Chinese have restricted the religious freedom of Uyghurs and banned them from performing Ramadan rituals.
Erdogan said, “We have been attentive to the specific issues the Chinese government is particularly sensitive about, and have been helpful and collaborative.”
In late June the Turkish Foreign Ministry conveyed i“deep concerns” to the Chinese ambassador to Turkey after the country reportedly banned Ramadan fasting in certain parts of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region for party members, civil servants, students, and teachers.
Erdogan will visit Indonesia following his visit to China.