U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday called and apologized to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over comments suggesting Ankara had financed and armed militant organizations in Syria.
During a speech at Harvard University Thursday, Biden criticized allies in the region, including Turkey, for supporting Sunni militant groups in Syria such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.
Erdogan reacted on Saturday furiously, demanding an apology from the U.S. vice president.
“If Mr. Biden used such language, that would make him a man of the past for me,” Erdogan told a news conference in Istanbul.
“No one can accuse Turkey of having supported any terrorist organization in Syria, including ISIS,” he said.
A statement from Biden’s office released in Washington said the deputy U.S. leader had called Erdogan to “clarify” his remarks.
“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 [ISIS] or other violent extremists in Syria,” a summary of the phone call said.
“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 [ISIS], including Turkey.
“The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of Turkey and the United States working closely together to confront ISIL.”
The spat between the two countries comes as Turkey, a NATO ally, is expected to define the role it will play in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS who have captured a swath of Iraq and Syria, in some cases right up to the Turkish border.
This week Turkey’s parliament approved a motion giving the government powers for military operations across the border in Syria and Iraq and for foreign troops to use Turkey’s territory.
“Foreign fighters have never entered Syria from our country. They may come to our country as tourists and cross into Syria, but no one can say that they cross in with their arms,” Erdogan said on Saturday.
Erdogan also said Turkey’s border policy had had prevented 6,000 suspected militants from entering the country and led to the deportation of another 1,000.
By Al Arabiya
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