ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 23 (UPI) — Vice President Joe Biden is in Turkey along with several high-ranking government representatives to discuss the possible extradition of Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen.
Three officials from the U.S. Justice Department and another from the State Department arrived in the capital, Ankara, late Monday night, two sources confirmed to the Adadolu Agency. The planned talks also were confirmed by two senior Turkish officials to Al-Jazeera.
The delegation spoke with officials from Turkey’s Ministry of Justice for International Law and Ministry of Foreign Affairs early Tuesday morning, the sources told Adadolu Agency. And talks also are scheduled for Wednesday, according to the Al-Jazeera sources.
Biden will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday.
Turkey’s government has said the failed coup, which left 240 people dead and nearly 2,200 injured, was organized by followers of Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the Saylorsburg, Pa. since 1999, and by his social service organizations in Turkey, which the government of Turkey has together labeled the “Fetullah Terrorist Organization.”
Erdogan has appealed to the United States for the return of Gulen numerous times and has said the United States has to “choose between Turkey and Gulen.”
“It is bizarre for us that they [the U.S.] have not been convinced, considering the scope of evidence we presented to them,” Yasin Aktay, the deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, told Al-Jazeera. “Even this meeting should not have been necessary.”
Biden will meet with Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to emphasize “ongoing strong support” for Turkey after the foiled coup, the White House said Monday.
“That is a coup attempt that was roundly and publicly condemned by the United States government and we continue to strongly support the democratic government of our allies in Turkey,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
The U.S. vice president will reiterate that efforts to extradite Gulen would be governed by “an extradition treaty that’s been on the books between the United States and Turkey for more than 30 years,” Earnest said.
It’s “not a presidential decision,” said Earnest, but a decision for the Justice Department.
Biden first traveled Monday to Riga, Latvia. After visiting Turkey, the vice president heads to Stockholm, Sweden.