August 24, 2016
Op-Ed by Vice President Joseph Biden
Last month, in the face of a violent attempted coup, thousands of brave citizens of Turkey—ordinary men and women—left the safety of their homes and took to the streets, filling Taksim Square and public spaces all across the country. Amid gunshots and explosions, at great personal risk, they defended their democracy.
It was an incredible demonstration of the grit and the mettle of the Turkish people—and of their unbending commitment to democratic principles.
On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I want to once more offer our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who were killed in the inexcusable violence of that night. They made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, for which they deserve our enduring respect and honor.
The United States emphatically and immediately condemned the events of July 15. In fact, President Obama was one of the very first world leaders to speak out in support of Turkey’s democratically-elected government, even while the coup attempt was still unfolding.
It was a crime. It was a violent betrayal by a small faction of those sworn to protect the Turkish republic and its citizens. And Americans, together with other democracy-loving peoples around the world, were shocked and outraged.
We also stand with our ally Turkey in the wake of the tragic terrorist attack in Gaziantep. It was an act of barbarism—using a child to take the lives of more than 50 innocent civilians at a wedding, including 29 children and teenagers. Nothing could be more cowardly. And this is the just the latest in a string of barbaric terrorist attacks in Turkey, perpetrated by ISIL, the PKK, and other terrorist groups. Our hearts go out to all the victims and their families.
Today, as I make my fourth trip to Turkey as Vice President—my second this year—I will convey this message of respect and solidarity directly to President Erdogan, Prime Minister Yildirim, and the Turkish people.
My visit is also an important opportunity to reaffirm the strength and resilience of the alliance between our two great nations. Ours is a partnership that officially dates back to the very beginning of the Turkish Republic in 1923. As Allies in NATO, we have taken a solemn pledge to come to the mutual defense of one another.
The friendship and affinity between our peoples goes far beyond our formal bonds. It’s rooted in the deeply-held values that underpin our democracies—a foundational respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, a commitment to tolerance and equality, an absolute rejection of the rule of the few by force paired with an equally fierce dedication to upholding the rights of those in the minority, especially in times of crisis.
Our partnership has been reaffirmed and strengthened repeatedly over the years. It happens each time our nations rise to meet threats to our common security and values, whether we’re fighting to end ISIL’s reign of terror or helping the people of Afghanistan build a future free from violence. The people of Turkey and the people of the United States stand together.
That’s why, as a long-standing friend of the Turkish people, I am saddened by the speculation in some corners that the United States somehow either supported the coup attempt or had prior knowledge of it. Not only are such allegations patently untrue, they’re dangerous and irresponsible, because they are designed to undermine the fundamentals of our alliance.
Also damaging are the voices suggesting that President Obama and I could simply decree that Fethullah Gulen be extradited immediately to Turkey. Under America’s system of government, where the executive and judicial branches have separate and independent roles, that’s simply not possible. In fact, any attempt to do so would be illegal.
The extradition process is governed both by a bilateral treaty, ratified by our respective governments, and well-established U.S. domestic law. Requests must be assessed by an independent federal court as to whether or not there is sufficient evidence to extradite.
It is a process that takes time to work through in any case. It is also important to note that, while we have received extradition requests for Mr. Gulen related to alleged activities predating the attempted coup, we have not yet received an extradition request or any evidence from Turkey relating to the attempted coup. Nonetheless, our legal professionals are committed to working diligently with their Turkish counterparts to determine whether the legal standards for extradition could be met.
I understand that in the wake of such a heinous and brutal attack, the desire is powerful for actions that might lead to justice for the loss of so many innocent lives. That’s why the United States is doing everything we can to support Turkey’s efforts to hold accountable those responsible for this terrible tragedy, while ensuring the rule of law is respected. As President Obama has made clear, the United States will provide any assistance we can to Turkish authorities investigating the coup attempt.
So my message in coming to Ankara today is simple: the people of Turkey have no greater friend and no stronger ally than the United States. That was true when we stood together against the threats of the 20th century, and it will remain true as we continue to address a myriad of challenges in the 21st century.
The people of Turkey are resilient. I have no doubt that you will come through this trial and that the partnership between our nations will only continue to grow stronger, secure in our shared and enduring values.