BEIJING - The leaders of China and Turkey agreed on Wednesday to strengthen cooperation in fighting terror and people smuggling, a senior Chinese diplomat said, following friction between the two over Uighurs from China's Xinjiang who have fled to Turkey.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority that calls Xinjiang home, have left China in recent years, travelling to Turkey via Southeast Asia, having first illegally crossed the Chinese border.
Rights groups say such migrants are fleeing ethnic violence in far western Xinjiang and Chinese controls on their religion and culture.
Hundreds of people have died in unrest in Xinjiang in the last three years, blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants.
This month, Thailand deported 109 Uighurs to China, sparking anger in Turkey, home to a large Uighur diaspora, and feeding concern among rights groups and the United States that they could be mistreated upon their return.
"Security and law enforcement cooperation is an important area for the two countries and both have agreed to strengthen cooperation," Chinese deputy foreign minister Zhang Ming told reporters, after President Xi Jinping and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met in Beijing.
Neither mentioned the issue in comments before reporters.