Ankara (ANTARA News) - Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was leaving Saturday for the first official visit to China by a Turkish premier in 27 years, an aide from his office told AFP.

Erdogan will first make a stopover in China's far-west Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, the aide said Saturday speaking on condition of anonymity.

A predominantly Muslim country, Turkey shares linguistic and religious links with the Uighur community, which has several associations here.

Ankara accepts China`s sovereignty over Xinjiang, but heavily criticised the 2009 violence in the region, denouncing what it described as "atrocities."

The aide said Erdogan would continue his tour with visits to Beijing and Shanghai.

Erdogan's trip, which is expected to last until April 11, follows Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping`s visit to Ankara and Istanbul in February which saw the signing of several cooperation deals in agriculture, finance and banking.

The two countries' central banks also inked a currency swap agreement worth 10 billion yuan ($1.58 billion), as part of Beijing's move to promote international usage of the Chinese currency.

Trade between Turkey and China soared from $1.0 billion in 2000 to $19.5 billion in 2010, according to official figures. But the balance of trade is heavily in China`s favour.

China and Turkey have set a timetable to increase their trade volume to $50 billion by 2015 and $100 billion by 2020.


Editor: Ade P Marboen
Copyright © ANTARA 2012