US VP Biden, Erdoğan discuss regional issues, ISIL fight: White House

US VP Biden, Erdoğan discuss regional issues, ISIL fight: White House

US VP Biden, Erdoğan discuss regional issues, ISIL fight: White House

AP photo

The White House has said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden discussed regional developments and ways to deepen cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in a meeting on Jan. 23 in Istanbul. 

One day after the meeting took place in Istanbul, after which an expected joint statement was not issued, the White House said in a readout “the two leaders discussed ways to further deepen the cooperation in the campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL,” adding that “other regional developments, including Syria,” were also discussed. 

The White House did not mention the status of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) - over which the two countries differ - in the Syria peace talks, just as Biden did not mention the PYD during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Jan. 23. 

While Turkey does not make any distinctions between the PYD and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and perceives the PYD as one of the three main threats in Syria, together with ISIL and the armed forces of the PYD, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), the U.S. draws a clear distinction between the PYD, whose fighters it supports, and the PKK in Turkey. 

Turkey does not want or support the PYD being part of the opposition group at the peace talks with the Syrian regime, which was planned to begin on Jan. 25 in Geneva but faces delays due to international powers and the opposition not being able to agree on who will join the delegation of opposition forces in Syria to sit at the negotiations table. 

Biden urges dialogue for solution to clashes in Turkey’s southeast

While Biden reiterated that the U.S. recognized the PKK as a terror organization, he also said he was concerned about the current violence in Turkey’s southeast and urged dialogue to overcome the problems.  

“Recognizing [the] PKK is a terrorist organization, the vice president [Biden] expressed concern about the ongoing violence in southeastern Turkey and urged Turkish leadership to engage in dialogue with all of the country’s communities who seek a peaceful resolution,” said the White House. 

Biden also spoke to Erdoğan over the de-escalation of tense relations between Turkey and Iraq. 
“The importance of de-escalating recent tensions between Turkey and Iraq in a manner that respects Iraqi sovereignty, and the opportunity for Turkey to expand its energy partnerships in the eastern Mediterranean,” was also discussed, according to the White House. 

Relations between Turkey and Iraq became tense when Turkey reinforced its troops in the Bashiqa camp located in northern Iraq. The Iraqi government demanded the withdrawal of the troops, after which Turkey withdrew some of its troops, though no certain figure was announced, to ease tensions. 

Daily Hürriyet learned from sources on Jan. 24 that during Biden’s visit the Turkish side proposed a project to the U.S. to calm Iraq’s unease. According to the project, which found support from the U.S., NATO and the anti-ISIL coalition will jointly operate the training base in Bashiqa. Nonetheless, no logistical change will be made at the base other than a sign showing that an international force is deployed there. The Iraqi army will be allowed to have a representative as part of the international coalition. Military officials are expected to gather in the coming days to implement the project, the same sources said.

The leaders also expressed support for ongoing efforts toward a negotiated settlement in Cyprus.