China has called on Turkey to support its fight against militants operating in China's far western East Turkistan region, following criticism from Turkey about human rights in a part of China heavily populated by Turkics, mostly Muslim people.
Meeting Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal in Beijing, the Chinese government's top diplomat State Councillor Wang Yi said his country sets great store on its ties with Turkey, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement late on Thursday.
China "has always respected Turkey's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and supports the efforts of the Turkish side to safeguard national security and stability", the MFA paraphrased Wang as saying.
"It is hoped that the Turkish side can also earnestly respect China's core interests in safeguarding national sovereignty and security, and support China's efforts to combat the 'East Turkistan' terrorist forces and safeguard the overall situation of the strategic cooperation between the two countries."
The MFA cited Onal as saying that Turkey supports China's efforts to safeguard national unity and combat "terrorist forces" and is willing to deepen pragmatic cooperation with China.
China has faced growing international opprobrium for setting up what it calls vocation training centres to combat extremism in the area which it calls Xinjiang province. The area is home to the Uyghur people and the training centres are seen by many countries as internment camps for Chinese Muslims.
Turkey is the only Muslim nation which has regularly expressed concern about the situation in the East Turkistan, including in February at the UN Human Rights Council, to China's anger.
China blames a group called the East Turkistan Islamic Movement for many of the attacks in recent years in Xinjiang. But many diplomats and foreign experts have cast doubt on whether the group exists in any coherent form.
Hundreds have died in unrest in recent years in the East Turkistan region.
Beijing says its de-radicalisation efforts in region have brought unprecedented stability, pointing to a lack of violence in the past two years or so.