Erdogan begins China trip with wreath laying ceremony

Turkish president to hold talks to further economic and commercial cooperation and visit Muslim ethnic groups during trip.

Eklenme: 29 Temmuz 2015 13:10 - Güncelleme: 09 Nisan 2016 06:34

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began an official visit to China on Wednesday with a visit to the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square, where he placed a wreath.

He then travelled to the National People's Congress for a private meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

The visit lasted for around an hour and was closed to media.

Accompanying Erdogan were Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu, Transport Minister Feridun Bilgin, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci and Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

The three-day trip is Erdogan's first to the country as president, and follows a previous visit in 2012 as prime minister.

Since his first election win of 2003, diplomatic relations -- established between the two countries in 1971 -- have significantly improved, peaking over the last 10 years through several high-level bilateral visits.

Erdogan told reporters before leaving for China on Tuesday that outside of visiting Muslim ethnic groups, his goal is to improve bilateral relations.

Along with trade meetings, he said that a forum would also be held between local businessmen and those accompanying him from Turkey, with some agreements already waiting to be signed.

"I believe during the talks we will take key steps in Turkey -China cooperation both in infrastructure and superstructure,"Erdogan said at Ankara's Esenboga Airport prior to flying to China.

The trip follows a diplomatic spat between Beijing and Ankara after around 180 Uighur Turks held at detention centers in Thailand were sent to Turkey, and a subsequent 109 moved to China.

The Uighur -- thought to number around 350 -- had been at the center of a diplomatic tug-of-war, withChina identifying them as from northwestern Xinjiang, while Turkey has welcomed them as its own.

Erdogan said Tuesday that during his visit ministers would meet representatives from the Uighur and Hui Muslim communities.

On leaving China on July 30, Erdogan is scheduled to fly to Indonesia, where he will meet President Joko Widodo and participate in a Turkey-Indonesia Business Forum.

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