Biden apologizes to Turkish President Erdoğan over ISIL remarks
Tolga Tanış - WashingtonU.S. Vice President Joe Biden has apologized to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over his comments that accused Turkey and other allies for paving the way for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
"The Vice President apologized for any implication that Turkey or other Allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria. The Vice President made clear that the United States greatly values the commitments and sacrifices made by our Allies and partners from around the world to combat the scourge of ISIL, including Turkey," a White House statement said on Oct. 4.
Biden called Erdoğan to clarify recent comments made at Harvard University, according to the statement. "The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of Turkey and the United States working closely together to confront ISIL," it added.
Earlier, Erdoğan had demanded an apology from Biden. "If Biden said these words, then he will be history for me. I never uttered such remarks," he said after the morning prayer for Eid al-Adha - the festival of sacrifice observed by Muslims all over the world - in Istanbul early Oct. 4.
"President Erdoğan told me, he is an old friend, said you were right, we let too many people through, now we are trying to seal the border," Biden had said during a speech on foreign policy at Harvard Kennedy School on Oct. 2, while complaining about the conduct of his country's regional allies that led to the rise of the ISIL.
However, the Turkish president vehemently denied these claims. "I was prime minister at the time. We absolutely didn't provide even the smallest amount of support to any terrorist organization, including the ISIL. Nobody can prove it. Foreign fighters never crossed from Turkey to Syria. There were people coming to Turkey as tourists and went to Syria, but nobody can suggest that they were armed while crossing the border," Erdoğan said.
He also stressed that Ankara's "sensitivity" over the issue continues, as do its measures to prevent the jihadist flow into Syria.
"I view [Biden's remarks] regretfully. I never admitted any mistake, nor did we tell them that they 'were right' during my visit to the U.S. If Mr. Biden uttered these remarks at Harvard, he should apologize. I'm saying this clearly. We won't accept slender, indirect explanations," Erdoğan added.
Turkish PM, too, raises objections
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also described Biden's remarks as "unacceptaple."
"It is impossible to accept his criticism. All the U.S. authorities and Biden very well know that Turkey, on its own, has hosted millions of refugees for four years. If all the warnings that Turkey made had been taken into consideration, [ISIL] would not be an issue today," Davutoglu told reporters following the prayer for Eid al-Adha in Istanbul on Oct. 4.
In the same remarks, Davutoğlu also said the tomb of Suleyman Shah, a sovereign Turkish territory in Syria, was safe.
Turkish soldiers have been on alert for potential attacks as there have been concerns that ISIL was getting close to the tomb.
"The soldiers are today wishing each other a happy Eid. We are, as a whole nation, together with them, and we will always proudly appreciate their efforts, patience, and determination," he said.