Joe Biden urges Turkey to impose new sanctions on Iran

 

US Vice President Joe Biden has called on Turkey to impose new sanctions against Iran, while praising Ankara for its role in pressuring Syria to stop its bloody crackdown on protesters.

Biden's comments — published today in the Turkish daily Hurriyet — raise further pressure on President Bashar Assad's regime. A top UN human rights official warned Thursday that Syria has entered a state of civil war with more than 4,000 people dead and an increasing number of soldiers defecting from the army.

Assad, trying to defeat an 8-month-old revolt challenging his rule, faces widespread international condemnation at the growing death toll, with Turkey, a major critic of the autocratic leader's actions, announcing a new set of economic sanctions against his regime earlier this week.

"We look forward to the broadening of international sanctions as a means to bring about change in Syria," Hurriyet quoted Biden as saying on Friday.

He also urged Ankara to adopt further sanctions against Iran, which the West suspects is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

On Friday, Biden met President Abdullah Gul and Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek in Ankara. Biden was scheduled to visit Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is recovering from a surgery at his Istanbul home on Saturday, US officials said.

Biden also said that the United States "will continue to work with Turkey on pursuing shared interests in the Middle East and North Africa."

"We continue to support a diplomatic solution to our concerns with Iran," Biden said. "However, we also believe that putting pressure on Iran's leadership is necessary to secure a negotiated settlement and that is why we encourage our partners, including Turkey, to take steps to impose new sanctions on Iran."

An Iranian general said Saturday that Tehran would target Nato's early warning radar in Turkey if the US or Israel attacks the Islamic Republic after an International Atomic Energy Agency report said for the first time that Tehran was suspected of conducting secret experiments with the sole purpose of developing nuclear arms.

Ankara agreed to host the radar in September as part of Nato's missile defense system, which is capable of countering ballistic missile threats from its neighbor. Turkey insists the shield doesn't target a specific country, but Tehran says the radar is meant to protect Israel from Iranian missile attacks if a war breaks out with the Jewish state.

The US and its Western allies also suspect Iran of trying to produce atomic weapons, and Israel, which views Tehran as an existential threat, has warned of a possible strike on Iran's nuclear program.

Biden was also expected to encourage Turkey to repair ties with its formerly close ally Israel. As a long-serving member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Biden cemented his reputation as an unyielding supporter of Israel, winning the respect of many in the Jewish community.

Relations between Turkey and Israel remain strained following last year's Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed eight Turkish citizens and a Turkish-American.

"It pains us to see the two of them at odds because they're both such close partners of the United States," Antony Blinken, national security adviser to Biden, told a teleconference briefing from Washington on Monday. "And the bottom line is that improved relations between Turkey and Israel would be good for Turkey, good for Israel and good for the United States and indeed good for the region and the world so that's something we will continue to encourage."

The leaders also discussed Turkey's conflict with autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels. The US has deployed four Predator drones to Turkey from Iraq and also agreed to sell three helicopter gunships to help fight the rebels, who stage attacks on Turkish targets from their bases in northern Iraq.

Gul said after his talks with Biden that cooperation between the countries against Kurdish rebels "will continue more strongly."

Biden said the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by the end of December would not leave "chaos behind."

"As the majority of US forces have already withdrawn from Iraq, we do not expect that the security environment in northern Iraq will change dramatically," Biden said.

Turkey also closely works with US forces in Nato operations in Afghanistan and Libya, though it is not directly involved in combat.

Turkey, however, is also home to radical Islamic groups who oppose Turkey's cooperation with Washington and regard Osama bin Laden, killed May 2 in American helicopter-borne raid in Pakistan, as a hero.

A group of Islamist, some carrying posters of bin Laden, burned down an American flag in Istanbul during an anti-American protest outside a central mosque.

Biden, meanwhile, voiced concern over human rights issues in Turkey.

"We have made known our concerns over such issues as lengthy pre-trial detention and restrictions on the freedom of expression affecting journalists and the Internet," he said, adding that Turkey's plans for a new constitution should "deepen respect for human rights for all Turkish citizens."

Turkey is also under pressure to reopen a seminary that trained generations of Greek Orthodox patriarchs. The Halki Theological School on Heybeliada Island, near Istanbul, was closed to new students in 1971 under a law that put religious and military training under state control. The school closed its doors in 1985, when the last five students graduated.

"In many ways, Turkey has shown great tolerance toward minority religions. The continued closure of the seminary is an anomaly and an unnecessary mark against Turkey's international image," Biden said.

From Turkey, Biden will travel to Greece, where he will meet with new Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, who took office earlier this month.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Sales Advisor - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telephone Sales Advisor is re...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker - OTE £20,000

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An office based Appointment Mak...

Recruitment Genius: Healthcare Assistant

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of care services is looking for...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Administrator

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Purpose of Role: To co-ordinate maintena...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent