Biden touts freedom of expression in Istanbul

Biden touts freedom of expression in Istanbul

Biden touts freedom of expression in Istanbul

U. S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I are seen during a meeting at the Patriarchate in Istanbul. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden chided Arab leaders who restrict freedom of expression and said nations cannot thrive when people are not allowed to think for themselves. A free political climate is essential to economic innovation, he added.

A political system based on freedom of speech and religion is the “truest shield” against sectarian strife that has afflicted the Middle East, as well as Western Europe in past centuries, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told a group of entrepreneurs gathered in Istanbul on Dec. 3.

“Democratic revolutions like the ones in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and the ones still unfolding in Syria and Yemen, are imbued, literally imbued, with entrepreneurial spirit, a spirit that requires risk and initiative, steadfast determination, and a unifying idea,” Biden said.

Biden also talked on Turkish-Israeli relations. “We hope that Turkey and Israel have a chance to mend and strengthen ties.” Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish nationals on one ship in a Gaza-bound flotilla last year, causing major damage to the relationship between Israel and Turkey.

The international forum, which drew hundreds of attendees, followed up on a meeting in Washington last year aimed at deepening ties between the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

He stressed the importance of a “free political climate in which ideas and innovation can flourish,” adding that governments should not try to close the Internet to free expression. “Those countries will find that that approach is a dead end,” he said.

“They may try to build walls between these different activities, but there is not a separate economic Internet, a political Internet and a social Internet. There is simply an Internet and it must remain free and open,” Biden said.

He praised Turkey, noting the Muslim ally’s economy has tripled in size over the last decade. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said Turkey was an example for the region of how Islam and democracy can coexist peacefully.

“International theories are okay, but a living example is much more convincing,” Babacan said. He referred to a “problem of political leadership” in some European countries; an apparent reference to the continent’s economic turmoil as well as Turkey’s frustration over its stalled bid to join the European Union.

The U.S. leader arrived in Turkey late Dec. 1 and has been meeting with top officials. He has urged Turkey to impose new sanctions on Iran, while praising Ankara for its role in pressuring Syria to stop its deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters. Biden also traveled in his motorcade to meet Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, at his headquarters in Istanbul and received information about the patriarchate. Biden yesterday visited historical sites in Istanbul and departed from Turkey for Greece.

Compiled from AP, Reuters and AA stories by the Daily News staff.