24 August 2016
U.S. vice-president, Joe Biden, says the U.S. is teaming up with a Turkish team to prepare a formal extradition request for Fethullah Gulen, the preacher Ankara blames for plotting the July 15 coup attempt.
Biden stressed on Wednesday during his visit to Turkey that only a court could extradite the Turkish born-Islamic cleric, based on evidence.
“We have 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.
Gulen, a Turkish Islamic cleric who has been living in exile in the United States since 1999, denies the charges.
He was a long-time ally of the current Turkish government but they have fallen out in recent years.
The vice-president said available information showed that so far Turkey has not supplied any evidence that Gulen was involved in the coup.
He said Tukey only filed documents on alleged crimes unrelated to the failed putsch.
Biden staunchly and repeatedly condemned the coup and also insisted that the U.S. had no hand in plotting it, rebuffing conspiracy theories making the rounds in Turkey.
Earlier Erdogan said Washington had “no excuse” for not handing over the Pennsylvania-based cleric blamed for the coup.
“We will tell Biden that FETO’s (the acronym for “Gulenist Terror Organisation”, the name Ankara has given Gulen’s network) leader is in your country,” Erdogan said prior to meeting with Biden.
“ If a country wants a criminal in your country to be extradited, you have no rights to argue with that,” he said.
Erdogan said Turkey and Washington were strategic partners and keeping Gulen would not benefit the U.S.
Biden, who arrived in Turkey on Wednesday, was guided by Turkish officials around the parliament, which was damaged during the coup attempt.
He is also expected to meet with the prime minister.
Rogue troops commandeered tanks, jets and helicopters to attack state institutions in Istanbul and Ankara last month in the failed coup bid that killed 240 people.
It triggered a massive purge of thousands of suspected Gulen followers in Turkey’s armed forces and civil service.
Washington has said it needs clear evidence to extradite Gulen.
Its failure to do so – and the perception of a slow response to the coup from Western allies, has angered Erdogan and chilled relations with Washington and the European Union.
Hours before Biden’s arrival, Turkish forces launched a major operation inside Syria to clear Islamic State militants out of the Syrian frontier town Jarablus, backed by U.S.-led coalition warplanes.
Turkey is both a NATO member and part of the U.S. coalition in the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
However, U.S.-Ankara relations have been complicated by that conflict. Washington backs the Syrian Kurdish YPG rebels against Islamic State.
Ankara is worried the YPG’s advance emboldens Kurdish insurgents in its mainly Kurdish Southeast.