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Biden in Turkey to mend ties

August 24, 2016

US Vice President Jo Biden has told Turkey's leaders that Washington had not supported the failed July 15 coup. He says the US is evaluating the evidence against alleged plot mastermind Fethullah Gulen.

Joe Biden and Binali Yildirim
Image: Reuters/M. Aktas/Prime Minister's Press Office

Biden told a media conference in Ankara on Wednesday that the "US puts paramount importance on US-Turkish relationship, as allies, partners and friends."

Speaking alongside Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, he said America had no interest in protecting anyone who had done harm to an ally, and that Washington offered unwavering support to Turkey in the wake of the failed coup by a section of the country's military.

Biden also said the US was cooperating with Turkish officials in evaluating evidence against the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara believes masterminded the putsch plot, but that legal standards must be met.

Gulen's link must be proven

"We have no interest whatsoever in protecting anyone who has done harm to an ally, but we need to meet the standard legal requirement under our law," Biden said, adding that only a US court can extradite the Turkish-born Islamic cleric based on evidence.

Joe Biden visit Turkey's parliament
Biden visited parliament, damaged during the coupImage: picture-alliance/Anadolu Agency/M.A. Ozcan

The vice president told reporters that the US understands the "intense feeling" in Turkey over Gulen after the coup.

Yildirim responded by saying that the two nations should not tolerate incidents to harm their relations, but said Ankara expected the legal process for Gulen's extradition to be conducted without delay.

Since the July 15 failed coup, Turkey has rounded up tens of thousands of people accused of having links to Gulen's organization. Thousands more have been suspended from their jobs in the military, police, education and media, amid fears that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the failed coup to consolidate power.

Assurances on purge

Biden told the news conference that Turkey had promised him that the rule of law would prevail during the investigation of the putsch.

Biden's visit came as Turkey began a massive operation Wednesday against "Islamic State" (IS) militants and Syrian Kurdish militias in Syria.

The air and ground operation is aimed at clearing jihadists from the Syrian town of Jarabulus, directly opposite the border with Turkey.

The Ankara government is adamant that Syrian Kurdish forces must not fill any void left close to the Turkish border by IS fleeing.

'Kurds must not seize territory'

In response to a new wave of military action, Yildirim repeated that Turkey would not accept the creation of a new Kurdish entity inside Syria. He insisted that Syria's territorial integrity must be maintained.

Turkey offensive against IS
Turkey began "Operation Euphrates Shield" WednesdayImage: Getty Images/AFP/B. Kilic

Biden made clear that Syrian Kurdish forces must return across the Euphrates River to the east bank after helping to seize the town of Manbij.

"They cannot, will not, and under no circumstances will they get American support if they do not keep their commitment," Biden added.

He also says the US would also not accept a Kurdish entity on the Turkish border.

Biden is due to meet Erdogan later on Wednesday. The Turkish president said earlier that the Ankara government would continue to provide US officials with documents to demand Gulen's extradition. The cleric has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999.

mm/jil (AP, dpa, Reuters)