Reuters reports that Vice President Joe Biden will visit Turkey on August 24, meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, in the first visit by a high-ranking U.S. official since the failed coup attempt in July.
Interestingly, Reuters mentions an interview Yildirim gave Turkish media on Saturday, in which he claimed, “Washington’s attitude has improved” on extraditing cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been described as the mastermind of the coup by Turkish officials.
That is not quite how Turkey’s pro-Erdogan Daily Sabah characterized the Yildirim press conference in question. In that account, Yildirim complained about U.S. intransigence on accepting Turkey’s claims and extraditing Gulen and described his government’s demand for the imam as non-negotiable:
Speaking with media figures at Çankaya Palace, Yıldırım said that the U.S. cannot stall the process. “There can be no compromising on bringing the terrorist leader [Gülen] to justice in Turkey.”
“After the price Turkey paid – we have more than 240 martyrs, more than 2,195 injured, not to mention the social, psychological and financial damage. While everything is so obvious, there cannot be a compromise.”
Yıldırım said that if the U.S. remained impassive to Ankara’s demands, then “it failed to understand the common feelings of 79 million [Turks].”
Yıldırım expressed disappointment in the coverage of the coup by Western media. “Instead of saying ‘Turkey defeated the coup plotters and democracy won,’ they have said, ‘They [the coup plotters] would be successful if they hadn’t done this and that,’ discussing the faults of the coup attempters. They suggested they be more careful. One would think this was a joke, but no.”
Yildirim also told reporters the United States was expected to send a “technical committee, including Justice Department lawyers” to Turkey to discuss extraditing Gulen, in advance of Biden’s visit.
According to an account of Yildirim’s remarks filed by Reuters from Istanbul, the Prime Minister also warned that “the only way to prevent the rising sentiment against America is for the U.S. to hand over this man, and make sure Turkey’s justice system holds him accountable.”
Yildirim said he expected a “positive outcome” from extradition talks, but the Jerusalem Post’s analysis was pessimistic, pointing out that America and her European allies are worried about Erdogan’s post-coup purges, Turkey has not yet presented evidence convincing enough for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and that successful extradition would take “months, if not years” in any case.
The Jerusalem Post suggests:
Another interpretation says Erdogan does not actually want him extradited, but only to use the issue as a domestic rallying cry against his opponents and critics in the West. By this narrative, the longer the proceedings drag out the better it is for Erdogan, who may also worry that in a public trial in Turkey, Gulen could reveal damaging information from when they were allies.