Biden clip spurs irritation across Turkish political sphere

Turkish politicians and political experts shared their disapproval on Saturday of comments made by U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden about his aspiring Turkey policy.

In footage from The Weekly, a documentary series covering the development of iconic headlines by the New York Times, Biden spoke of his vision for U.S. relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying he would embolden Turkish opposition to defeat Turkey's strongman in elections if he became president.

The former U.S. vice president also called Erdoğan an "autocrat" and criticised his domestic and foreign policies.

“We will continue on our path, not by looking at who said what, but what our people want, and the direction they point to,” Erdoğan said in an apparent dismissal to Biden’s comments, hours after the video began circulating on social media.

Mahir Ünal, vice president of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), posted Biden’s statements on his Twitter account and said: “Those who could not face Turkey's independence and (the country’s) powerful rise and attempted to prevent them through every means always found our president and the will of the people before them. They will continue to do from now on, as well.”

The president’s communications director and Fahrettin Altun said the outtake remarks reflected “the games and interventionist approaches being played on Turkey”.

“These statements do not coincide with democracy and the nature of Turkey-U.S. bilateral relations,” he said on Twitter.

“We believe that these unseemly statements by a presidential candidate from our NATO ally, the United States, which have no place in diplomacy, are deemed unacceptable by the current administration. Turkey is not a country to be used as a material for political games.”

Altun also called out Turkey’s political opposition for not condemning Biden’s comments.

“It is regrettable, however, that the opposing politics in our country have not reacted to these statements, which are humiliating and raise questions in the mind of our nation,” Erdoğan’s top aide said.

Minutes after Altun’s posts, Gürsel Tekin, Istanbul parliamentary deputy for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), denounced Biden for his proposal to embolden Turkey’s political opposition “to be able to take on and defeat Erdoğan” via the electoral process.

“Mr. Joe Biden, CHP or our political allies does (sic) not need, want or accept any foreign aid to win an election. As (Turkey’s modern founder Mustafa Kemal) Atatürk said: ‘Independence is our character,’” Tekin said. “Every political actor including the U.S. must respect the sovereignty and independence of the Turkish nation.”

Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister who left the AKP and founded the Future Party, also condemned Biden’s comment.

“Only the nation decides who will be in power and who is discharged in this country! We do not recognise any power beyond the will of the nation!” he said.

Reactions to the presidential nominee’s statements were not limited to Turkey’s politicians.

Conflict resolutions expert Deniz Ülke Arıboğan, of the University of Oxford, said Biden played into the hands of Erdoğan and the AKP.

“This video, which went viral in Turkey, is the biggest support that any U.S. government has ever given to Mr. Erdoğan’s government since 2002,” she said. “If it is consciously done; well done ... But if not, poor Americans. What a smart presidential candidate!”

Meanwhile, Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle East and North Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said U.S. voters would not pick their next president based on what Biden had to say about Turkey.

“I don't know, but I'm willing to bet that 99.999999999999 percent of registered American voters will not cast a ballot based on the UAE-Israel deal or what former VP Biden has to say about Turkey,” Cook said.