Chinas leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping praised Turkeys growing role on Tuesday in trying to resolve regional issues such as the Iranian nuclear dispute and Middle East conflicts.
In Turkey on the last leg of a trip that also took him to the US and Ireland,Xi is almost sure to succeed Hu Jintao as Chinese president in just over a year.
He was feted by US leaders eager to see China import more from the USbut in Turkey on Tuesday,he was greeted by protests outside his Ankara hotel by some 60 Turkic-speaking Uighurs from Chinas northwestern Xinjiang province.
Waving the flag of East Turkestan,pale blue with a white star and crescent,the protesters burnt a Chinese flag and a poster of Xi before police moved in to disperse them.
Rights groups accuse China of abuses during a crackdown after Uighur riots in 2009 and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan then described the events as a genocide.
Xi said China had made great strides to raise the living standards of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
Turkey has sought to mediate between the West and Iran in a dispute over Irans nuclear programme and has broadly shared Chinas opposition to stronger sanctions against Tehran. But on Syria their positions have been sharply at odds.
While Turkey has taken a leading role in pressuring Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to step down,China,along with Russia,this month blocked a draft UN Security Council resolution that backed an Arab plan urging him to quit.
Xi met President Abdullah Gul on Tuesday and signed six bilateral economic agreements. He will later travel to Istanbul to meet Erdogan,who is recovering from surgery at home there.
On Wednesday,Xi attends a business forum in Istanbul,where he is likely to be assailed by exporters eager to try to bridge a gaping trade gap. China is Turkey’s 15th biggest export market with nearly $2.5 billion of Turkish goods sold there last year.