By Halil Ibrahim Baser
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden reiterated Saturday U.S. support for Turkey's fight against terror, according to Turkish presidential sources.
Biden's remarks came at a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, the sources said, adding that during the closed-door meeting, the two discussed bilateral relations and regional issues including Syria and Iraq.
Biden said the U.S. supported Turkey's fight against terrorism including against the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the EU, U.S. and Turkey. He also praised Turkey's efforts in helping Syrian refugees.
Erdogan said Turkey did not discriminate against any terrorist group, whether it be Daesh, PKK, Al-Qaeda or DHKP-C [far-left terrorist organization in Turkey] and said Turkey also considered PYD and YPG terrorist groups.
The Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD is PKK's Syrian affiliate while YPG is the PYD’s armed wing.
Erdogan said that Turkey had been an active member of the international coalition against Daesh since the beginning, and called on allies to "stay away from any stances or statements that could contribute to those circles which have been trying to undermine Turkey's determination in the fight against terror”.
The Turkish president said that the instability in Iraq paved the way for terrorist organizations such as Daesh and the PKK, and underlined the "serious need" to fight for Fallujah and Mosul after Ramadi.
Erdogan also spoke of a recently issued manifesto by a group of academics in Turkey criticizing Ankara’s fight against terrorism. Presidential sources quoted Erdogan as saying that Turkey is a state of law just like the U.S. and making terrorist propaganda or issuing statements that support acts of terrorism cannot be considered within the domain of freedom of thought.
The sources also cited Biden criticizing the manifesto for not mentioning PKK terrorism.
On January 10, the Group of Academics for Peace issued a manifesto calling for end to fighting in the southeast, where security curfews have seen several towns cut off as the police and military battle the PKK.
The declaration sparked an investigation into “terrorist propaganda” and insulting the state. More than a dozen academics were arrested over the petition, which accused the state of violating human rights and conducting a “deliberate and planned massacre”.
Erdogan and Biden also exchanged ideas on the situation in Syria, and what could be done for a transitional government.
Prior to meeting Erdogan, Biden met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Turkey and the U.S. agreed to act in coordination and to launch new initiatives in Iraq's Bashiqa camp near Mosul, Turkey’s Prime Ministry sources said earlier Saturday.
“During the meeting, agreement has been reached on strengthening coordination on Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq and in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and on moving forward with new initiatives,” the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Turkey has been running a training program at the camp to provide training to Iraqi volunteers as part of its fight against Daesh.
On Dec. 4, Turkey reinforced the protection component of its units at the camp due to increasing security threats.
Following a series of bilateral talks to alleviate Iraq’s concerns, Turkey rearranged the number of its troops in Bashiqa on Dec. 14, with the additional troops having been pulled back to rear positions.
Turkey said at the time that 150 soldiers and up to 25 tanks were stationed in Bashiqa to protect Turkish servicemen training Iraqi volunteers to fight Daesh. The training mission had been in Iraq since March and was not assigned to combat duties.