In comments published on Thursday, 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.
Turkey is one of the only Muslim-majority countries to have criticised China over the detention of an estimated one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in the 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 Turkish journalists in Beijing before flying back to Turkey, according to Hurriyet daily.
According to Chinese state media, Erdogan said that the 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 the opportunity to such abuse,” Erdogan said.
He added that Turkey could “send a delegation to East Turkestan”, the name given by activists to Xinjiang.
Erdogan told his Chinese counterpart that Turkey’s “sole wish was for Uighurs in China to live in peace and prosperity,” Altun wrote.
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 had 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”.