Turkish state lender Ziraat Bank has signed a $400 million loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China less than a week after the official visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Ankara, which sparked protests by nearly 1,000 Uyghurs in İstanbul.
According to a statement from Ziraat Bank cited by the state-run Anadolu news agency, the cost-effective loan provided by China Exim Bank in two separate tranches — $320 million and 500 million Chinese yuan (some $80 million) — will boost trade in local currencies and meet the financing needs of companies mainly engaged in trade between China and Turkey.
“The agreement is an important indicator of the trust that international financial circles and business partners have in both the country’s economy and Ziraat Bank,” the bank added, referring to its largest loan deal with China since the $600 million credit agreement with the China Development Bank in late 2017.
The deal was concluded after Wang’s official meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and later with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 25, which came against the backdrop of an escalating row between China and Turkey’s Western allies over Beijing’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.
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.
Turkey, which has been a destination for thousands of Uyghurs fleeing China because of their shared cultural ties and is home to an estimated 50,000 Uyghurs, has become less vocal about the plight of the Uyghurs in recent years as it has developed economic ties with China.
A Turkey-China extradition treaty signed in 2017 that is still awaiting ratification by the Turkish parliament has led to fears it could be used to target Uyghurs living in Turkey as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) recently voted down a motion calling the Chinese treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority in northwestern Xinjiang province “genocide.”