White House 'pleased' with Ankara talks, despite disagreement on key issues
WASHINGTON - Anadolu Agency
US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting at an Atlantic Council summit in Istanbul on Nov. 22. REUTERS PhotoWashington is pleased with talks held during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Turkey, despite their failure to yield any solid outcomes sought by either of the sides, a high-ranking White House official said, briefing the press during the trip.
Speaking to press on Nov. 22, a senior U.S. administration official accompanying the vice president on his trip touched on Biden’s talks with Turkish officials in Ankara, according to a statement released by the White House on Nov. 23.
The official said the White House thinks “we came to a much greater clarity about where we need to go from here” regarding the strategy to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“There were some additional questions that went unresolved, and both of our systems have to noodle over those in the coming days. But I actually think that we have a much better understanding about what each other’s needs and constraints are on these issues,” the White House representative stated.
The official said the conversations have convinced both countries that they “have a lot more in common than disagreements on these issues.”
Pointing to three of those shared views, the official said Washington and Ankara are in “complete agreement” that ISIL needs to be defeated, an effective ground force is needed in Syria, and the moderate Syrian opposition, namely the Free Syrian Army (FSA), should be trained and equipped to counter the al-Assad regime as well as extremist groups.
The official also highlighted that both parties’ views were most in harmony over the Iraq strategy.
No İncirlik before full agreement
However, when asked about whether progress was made during Biden’s meetings in Turkey, the official answered coyly: “They didn’t sit there and sign their names on the bottom line on a whole host of agreements.”
Regarding the issue of the opening of the strategic air base İncirlik in southern Turkey, which is one of the key subjects of disagreement, the official said the negotiations will continue, but Ankara insists on full harmony between the sides before bases are used.
“I think the Turks have been clear that they want to get us all on the same page first before they open up – what they would call open up their platforms a little bit more. So what I’m saying is I think we’re making very good progress in that space. And hopefully when we get to the end, if we’re all in agreement, then we’ll have expanded access for the coalition in Turkey. But, of course, that will be up to the Turks,” the representative said.
When asked about what the other main points of disagreement are, the official said “I think where we still need to get across the goal line in terms of our agreement is how our military-to-military cooperation is going to be synced up.”
Biden’s call to Greek Cypriot leader
Meanwhile, a separate White House statement announced that Biden phoned Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades on Nov. 23 to update him on his recent meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
“The Vice President noted the need to deescalate tensions in order to get back to a more constructive track in U.N.-mediated settlement talks on Cyprus and reinvigorate efforts to seek mutually beneficial solutions,” said the statement released on Nov. 23.
Biden had called Anastasiades prior to his arrival in Turkey, asking him if he had any messages to convey to the Turkish government.