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Turkey condemns Biden’s criticism of ‘autocrat’ Erdogan

Turkish presidential spokesman accuses presumptive Democratic candidate of ‘pure ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy’ over call to support opposition parties

Then-US vice president Joe Biden, left, poses for photographers with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, prior to a meeting at Yildiz Mabeyn Palace in Istanbul on January 23, 2016. (Kayhan Ozer/ Presidential Press Service, Pool via AP)
Then-US vice president Joe Biden, left, poses for photographers with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, prior to a meeting at Yildiz Mabeyn Palace in Istanbul on January 23, 2016. (Kayhan Ozer/ Presidential Press Service, Pool via AP)

Turkey on Sunday condemned remarks made by US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and calling for support for the Turkish leader’s opponents.

Biden made the comments in an interview last December. A video of the remarks, filmed by The New York Times, first appeared on Saturday, before going viral on social media.

Asked about Erdogan, Biden described the Turkish president as an “autocrat,” criticized his policy towards the Kurds, and advocated supporting the Turkish opposition.

“What I think we should be doing is taking a very different approach to him now, making it clear that we support opposition leadership,” Biden said.

He said it was necessary to “embolden” Erdogan’s rivals to allow them “to take on and defeat Erdogan. Not by a coup, not by a coup, but by the electoral process.”

The comments did not provoke much reaction when they were published in The New York Times in January, but the video of the interview triggered an angry response from Turkey.

“The analysis of Turkey by @JoeBiden is based on pure ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted.

“The days of ordering Turkey around are over. But if you still think you can try, be our guest. You will pay the price.”

Biden’s statements also embarrassed Erdogan’s opponents, whom the Turkish government regularly accuses of being in the pay of foreign powers.

Several officials of the main opposition CHP party quickly distanced themselves from Biden’s remarks, calling for “respect for the sovereignty of Turkey.”

US President Donald Trump (L) and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) leave the stage after the family photo at the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London, December 4, 2019. (Peter Nicholls/Pool/AFP)

Some Biden critics also expect a possible deterioration in already testy relations between Ankara and Washington if he manages to defeat Donald Trump in the US presidential election in November.

Erdogan, who in recent years has worked to cultivate a personal relationship with Trump, often lashes out at the US president’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Biden was Obama’s vice president.

Relations between Ankara and Washington were strained during Obama’s second term, particularly in regard to disagreements over Syria and growing international criticism over freedoms and rights in Turkey.

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