Vice President Joe Biden appeared in Turkey on Wednesday to reaffirm that the United States of America had no prior knowledge of the Turkish coup by the military and to also explain the slow walk of the American legal process in delivering the nemesis cleric being blamed for the July 15 coup, Fethullah Gulen, according to various media sources.
“I want to ease any speculation, some of which I have heard, as to whether or not the United States had some advanced warning, the United States… had some complicity. The United States of America… did not have any foreknowledge of what befell you on the 15th.”
An Associated Press YouTube video shows Vice President Biden as he spoke to interested parties in Turkey.
Biden in Turkey means relations with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish people have gone from bad to worse after the failed coup attempt on July 15. According to a recent report on the issue by the Los Angeles Times, there is also a need for some “fence-mending,” because of growing anti-U.S. sentiments.
Turkey is considered to be “a key NATO ally” as well, per the article by Tracy Wilkinson, and VP Biden likely has been sent by the Obama Administration after having witnessed President Erdogan “making friendly overtures” towards Iran and Russia.
Wilkinson points out that many in Turkey were angered by the “slow condemnation” of the coup by President Barack Obama and his administration. Also pointed out is the matter of U.S. concerns for the massive arrests. Thousands of soldiers have been arrested as well as “teachers, judges, journalists,” and anyone suspected of being linked to the summer coup.
Opinions from political persons living in the region are important to note. The head of Political Science and International Relations Department at Bahcesehir University (BAU) in Turkey has an opinion piece in Aljazeera regarding the situation. Gulner Aybet mentions the “pressing items” upon Biden’s agenda in his one-day visit to Turkey, and that involves a man now living in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen.
“The first [matter] is the Turkish request for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, who is widely believed to be the hand behind the failed coup attempt.”
Aybet states in her op-ed that “[t]here was already an ongoing investigation against Gulen before the coup attempt, and on May 26 the Turkish National Security Council officially labelled the organisation as a terrorist group – the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), to be disbanded as a primary threat to Turkey’s national security.”
But Aybet also adds a few more “pressing items” while Biden is in Turkey. One issue involves the war in Syria and a “red line” that was crossed involving “the US-backed advance of predominantly People’s Protection Units (YPG)-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).” Turkey believes it made things clear when it stated that “the YPG should stay on the east of the Euphrates,” per Aybet’s op-ed.
The US contends that “since there are no other ground forces they can rely on in the fight against ISIL, they will continue to train and back the YPG,” writes Aybet, which is a frustration to Turkey. In the opinion of Turkey, the “YPG and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)” are viewed as being “one and the same.”
A third issue concerns the use of the Incirlik airbase, which is “controlled by the Turkish and US air forces,” according to Aybet, and which should be addressed while Biden is in Turkey.
“Given the fact that power was cut to the base after the failed coup, and the Turkish commander of the base, Bekir Ercan Van, was arrested as one of the plotters – who gave the permission for a a tanker plane to take off and support rogue fighter jets on the night of the coup attempt – some US analysts are concerned about the safety of US nuclear weapons stored in the base.”
A final pressing matter for Biden in Turkey appears to be what Aybet describes as “the need for readjustment of US public diplomacy towards Turkey.”
“Official and unofficial reactions from the US, especially those from the media, to the failed coup attempt are much to blame for the rise of anti-American sentiment in Turkey.”
— US Mission to NATO (@USNATO) August 24, 2016
Writer Dorian Jones of the Voice of America observed at the beginning of this year when Biden was previously in Turkey that there was quite a “full agenda” of issues to discuss then as well. Writer Jones quotes Sinan Ulgen, described last January as being a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, who believed that the previous Syrian peace talks held in Vienna would “prove the thorniest issue” for Biden at that time earlier this year. Turkey is not really willing to have Kurds involved.
Ulgen stated that the issues then were the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and, “secondly, the set-up of the opposition groups that will be represented at the table. There is no willingness on the Turkish side [for] the presence of the Syrian Kurds.”
A more recent mention of Biden in Turkey this month from VOA holds that his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara Wednesday held a promise to Yildirim from the vice president of the U.S. to provide any assistance Turkey may need to strengthen its democracy.
But the fact that the man Turkey wants extradited, Gulen, has been living in a “self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for 17 years,” seems problematic, even though Gulen has “told VOA’s Turkish Service he was not involved in the coup and condemned the violence,” per the VOA report.
Biden in Turkey, for such a short time, seems to have quite a load to carry as far as his diplomatic burdens on all the pressing agenda issues.
[Photo by Burhan Ozbilici/AP Images]