U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visits Turkey amid tensions following coup

ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 24 (UPI) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday following a failed coup d’etat that increased tensions.

Biden is the first senior White House official to meet with Erdogan and other top member of the Turkish government after the failed July 15 coup. Some Turkish officials accused the United States of helping factions of the Turkish military carry out the insurgent act.

“Turkey has the United States’ unwavering support,” Biden said at a news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. “The United States had no knowledge beforehand of what was to befall you on July 15.”

During closed-door conversations, Biden raised concerns about Turkey’s response to the coup, which the Turkish government is claiming was orchestrated by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania.

More than 270 people died during the failed coup attempt. At least 16,000 people have been formally arrested in connection with the coup attempt, with more than 26,000 being detained. Erdogan’s critics accuse him of using the failed coup as an excuse to crack down on the opposition.

When speaking on the topic of extraditing Gulen, Biden said the United States has “no interest whatsoever in protecting anyone who has done harm to an ally … but we need to meet the legal standard requirement under our law.”

Biden said it would be an “impeachable offense” if U.S. President Barack Obama extradited Gulen to Turkey without going through proper U.S. justice system procedure.

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