Davutoglu: "Asia and China aren't alternatives to the EU"
Growing ties with Asia are not an alternative to the European Union, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in China yesterday, dismissing allegations of a shift in Turkey's axis, according to diplomatic sources. "Our objective is full EU membership," Davutoglu told a roundtable meeting during his visit to China. In addition to attending the meeting on the contributions of Turkish-Chinese strategic cooperation to global and regional peace, Davutoglu met with Chinese academics as well as with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping. During their discussion, the academics asked Davutoglu about debate in the West over the direction of Turkish foreign policy. Diplomatic sources said Davutoglu stressed that growing ties with China are not an alternative to the EU. The Turkish-Chinese relationship was strained last year by ethnic unrest in the autonomous Xinjiang region, an area with a heavy Turkic Uighur population known as East Turkistan in Turkish. Davutoglu said Turkey and China have cousins in various regions and show cultural interest in them, adding that Turkey wants to establish a bridge of peace and friendship with its kin in line with the territorial integrity and political unity of their host countries. "This is also true of the Uighur Turks," Davutoglu said, according to the sources. Xi replied that his country has 56 different minority groups coexisting in peace and harmony but stressed that Beijing opposes the activities of extremist groups. Ankara is prioritizing raising the level of its relationship with China to a strategic partnership, but diplomats say the mechanism will be different from its strategic partnerships with Syria and Iraq. Xi said Beijing has the same view and that now is the time to translate words into action. "The Silk Road should be revived," said Davutoglu. The foreign minister will meet with his Chinese counterpart today and lecture at a Chinese university on Turkish foreign policy and Ankara-Beijing relations.