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Chinese foreign minister to visit Turkey at Ankara’s invitation

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Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi will visit Ankara at the invitation of the Turkish government between March 24-26 for meetings with his Turkish counterpart and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.

“Bilateral relations as well as current regional and international issues will be discussed during the visit,” the ministry said.

The visit comes against the backdrop of an escalating row between China and Turkey’s Western allies over Beijing’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority in the country.

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on several Chinese officials for human rights abuses against the Uyghurs living in China’s Xinjiang province on Monday.

The EU sanctions are the first significant economic penalties the bloc has imposed on China since Beijing’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

China’s Foreign Ministry denounced the sanctions as “based on nothing but lies and disinformation,” announcing its own sanctions against 10 European individuals and four institutions, including five members of the European Parliament.

China’s treatment of the Uyghurs has drawn international condemnation, with human rights groups estimating that some 1 million Uyghurs have been arbitrarily incarcerated in a network of prison camps. There have also been reports of forced sterilization, systematic torture and rape.

The Uyghurs have sought refuge in Turkey for decades 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.

On March 10 a motion calling the Chinese treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority in northwestern Xinjiang province “genocide” was voted down by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

An estimated 50,000 Uyghurs are currently living in Turkey, making it the largest Uyghur diaspora in the world.

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