Vice President Joe Biden arrived on Friday in Istanbul Turkey for a three day visit and today he will meet with President Tayyip Erdogan. Last night during a working dinner with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, they discussed “the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the Cyprus settlement talks, and energy security”, according to a White House read-out.
“The two leaders agreed on the need to degrade and defeat ISIL, to work towards a political transition in Syria, and provide support for the Iraqi Security Forces and the moderate Syrian opposition”, the statement reads.
“We’ve been friends for a long time and one of the great advantages of being back in Turkey with a friend and NATO ally is we’re always direct with one another,” US vice-president Joe Biden told a joint news conference with Davutoglu.
“We have tackled a number of very contentious issues regionally and internationally and we’ve always eventually come out on the same side,” he said.
In arrival remarks before the media, Prime Minister Davutoglu said “relations between Turkey and the United States are deep rooted…some of the very best in the world.” He recounted the many crises on which the NATO and bilateral allies have worked together, “most recently in close contact with each other” against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, “and the regime.”
In response, Vice President Biden also spoke of the long and strong friendship between the two allies, and said that one of the advantages of such a close relationship is that they are “always direct with each other. Friends don’t let friends wonder what they’re thinking.”
Closing on a lighter note, the Vice President noted that the last time they met, Prime Minister Davutoglu was Turkey’s foreign minister. “He’s gotten promoted, and I’m still Vice President. I have to discuss with him how he does it.”
Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the US-led coalition against Isis insurgents. Ankara argues that the coalition’s air strikes in Iraq and Syria are not enough and it has pushed for a more comprehensive strategy involving Assad’s departure and the creation of a buffer zone inside Syria to protect displaced civilians.
Ankara has in turn drawn criticism for letting thousands of foreign rebels cross its borders and for doing little to end the Isis siege of the Syrian border town of Kobani, a battle that has raged for months within sight of Turkish military positions.
Speaking just before Biden’s arrival in Istanbul, Davutoglu, who has spent the last two days in Iraq, said there could be no sustainable peace in Syria while Assad remained in power.
“Look at how things are getting better in Iraq after a government chosen by the people is in place,” he told reporters at Istanbul airport.
“But in Syria, you can’t bring peace trying to destroy a terrorist organization on one side of the country while a regime in Damascus is using all sorts of weapons to exterminate a portion of its own people on the other.”
Biden will discuss Turkey’s role in the coalition with Davutoglu and President Tayyip Erdogan. Their talks are also expected to focus on Turkish efforts to stop the flow of foreign jihadists joining Isis via Turkey, and Ankara’s assistance to the more than 1.6 million refugees on its soil.
Davutoglu said that while Turkey and Washington may differ in their methods, they had common aims, with the United States also wanting to see Assad gone.