US and Turkey discuss possible regime change in Syria
A handout photo by the Presidential Press Service shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) talking with the US Vice President Joe Biden at the Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul.U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has said he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed a "transition of power" in Syria away from the Bashar al-Assad regime during a four-hour meeting in Istanbul on Nov. 22.
Turkey has been pushing for a more comprehensive strategy in the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq, including al-Assad's removal from power.
"On Syria, we discussed ... not only denying ISIL a safe haven, rolling back and defeating them, but also strengthening the Syrian opposition and ensuring a transition away from the al-Assad regime," Biden said in a joint news conference with Erdoğan.
He stressed that the U.S. "needs Turkey" in its fight against ISIL.
"We are attempting to both stem the flow of foreign fighters to battlefields in Iraqi and Syria and dry their funding. We thank Turkey for their leadership in that regard," Biden said.
The U.S. vice president noted that the Turkish president and he talked about their work as part of an international coalition to "degrade and eventually defeat ISIL."
"We had a candid discussion and we strategized together as allies and friends do," said Biden.
President Erdoğan said that Turkey is determined to strengthen its cooperation with the U.S. against ISIL to maintain regional peace and security.
"We had a chance to discuss recent issues with Biden. It is a pleasure to announce that Turkey and the U.S. have a consensus on several regional issues," he said, stressing the importance of strategic cooperation between the two countries.
"The coordinated steps taken by Turkey and the U.S. will have a role in changing the future of the region. Turkey is determined to strengthen its relationship with the U.S. to maintain regional peace and security," Erdoğan said.
Biden added that they had also spoken about their nations' efforts to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces protecting their communities.
"Turkey, as a consequence of the ongoing Syrian civil war, is carrying a heavy humanitarian burden. The people of Turkey have welcomed and cared for those displaced by this war, and accommodating so many refugees has been a costly proposition."
The meeting was the first between Erdoğan and Biden since the vice president criticized the country in a speech at Harvard University on Oct. 2 for "contributing to the rise of ISIL."
His accusation angered Erdoğan, who said at the time, "Biden has to apologize for his statements," or else he would become "history to me."
On Oct. 4, the White House released a statement saying that, "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."
Biden is to leave Turkey for Washington on Nov. 23 after a meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I.