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Syria and Trade Top Agenda for Chinese VP in Turkey

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (l) with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Turkey, February 21, 2012.

China's vice president is in Turkey for talks about the ongoing fighting in Syria and efforts to expand trade.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping praised Turkey's growing regional importance, in an interview with a Turkish newspaper. He also paid tribute to Ankara's efforts to resolve Middle East conflicts, including unrest in Syria and Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Observers say the fact Vice President Xi, who is widely touted as China's leader in waiting, is spending three days in Turkey, underlines the country's increasing importance.
But China and Turkey remain deeply divided about the ongoing crisis in Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned China and Russia's recent veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution to punish the Syrian government for its ongoing crackdown against political dissent.

But with Turkey sharing an 800-kilometer border with Syria, Ankara is looking to Beijing and Moscow to break the current deadlock, according to Soli Ozel, who writes about international relations for Haberturk newspaper.

"It is quite obvious the regime is not collapsing and the opposition just does not have the kind of power which is necessary to unseat that government, which means this is going to be a drawn out thing. And that may mean that inevitably they are moving toward a civil war," Ozel said.

Ankara had reportedly lobbied unsuccessfully for Beijing to attend an international meeting later this week in Tunisia to discuss the Syrian crisis.

The Syrian crisis topped the agenda of Vice President Xi's talks with Turkish officials Tuesday, including President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minster Erdogan.

Vice president Xi's visit to Istanbul, the commercial capital of Turkey, will also see trade feature prominently in his discussions. The Chinese vice president is scheduled to attend a business forum Wednesday, accompanied by a large business delegation.