Solution possible for China’s Muslims: Erdogan


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a solution could be found to help Muslims interned in Chinese camps “taking into account the sensitivities” of both sides, in comments published Thursday.

Turkey is one of the only Muslim-majority countries to have criticized China over the detention of an estimated one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in restive Xinjiang province.

But Erdogan struck a softer tone after meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday in Beijing. “I believe we can find a solution to the issue taking into account the sensitivities of both sides,” Erdogan told before flying back to Turkey.

Chinese state media claimed Erdogan said ethnic minorities live happily in Xinjiang, but he made no such comments to Turkish reporters. He warned against those who sought to “abuse” the Xinjiang issue to create tensions with China, a key investor and trading partner.

“This abuse is having a negative impact on Turkish-Chinese relations. It is necessary that we do not give opportunity to such abuse,” Erdogan said. He added that Turkey could “send a delegation to East Turkestan”, the name given by activists to Xinjiang, and that Beijing was open to the idea.

China denies holding people against their will in what it describes as “vocational education centres” aimed at steering citizens away from religious extremism.

Turkey’s foreign ministry in February lambasted China’s treatment of Uighurs as “a great embarrassment for humanity” and said those in the centres and prisons were “subjected to torture and political brainwashing”.

“Migrants and refugees must NOT be detained; civilians must NOT be a target; Libya is NOT a safe place of return” for migrants and refugees, UNHCR head Filippo Grandi tweeted.

Charlie Yaxley, a spokesperson in Geneva, said the UNHCR had asked that the centre be evacuated a few weeks ago after “a near miss from a similar air strike”.

The centre was thought to have been used to store weapons, he added.

The UN’s mission in Libya has said around 3,500 migrants and refugees held in detention centres near the combat zone are at risk.

Wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising against dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Libya has become a major conduit for migrants seeking to reach Europe and remains prey to numerous militias vying for control of the country’s oil wealth.

Rights groups say migrants face horrifying abuses in Libya, and their plight has worsened since Haftar launched the offensive against Tripoli.

More than 700 people have been killed and 4,000 wounded since the assault began in early April, while nearly 100,000 have been displaced.

The two rival camps accuse each other of using foreign mercenaries and enjoying military support — especially air backing — from foreign powers.

Late Wednesday flights were suspended at Mitiga, Tripoli’s only functioning airport, a statement by airport authorities said, after Haftar’s forces launched an air strike on the facility.

A security source said the raid caused no casualties or damage.

Spokesman Mesmari said a “drone command centre” at Mitiga was destroyed in the raid.

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