Biden Urges Turkey to Toughen Sanctions on Iran

Posted December 2nd, 2011 at 12:30 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is pressing Turkey to impose new sanctions on Iran, while praising the Turkish government for pressuring Syria to stop a brutal crackdown on protesters.

Biden made the comments to the Turkish daily Hurriyet on Friday. The U.S. vice president is in Turkey's capital, Ankara, for meetings with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek.

Just days after the United States toughened its economic sanctions on Iran, Biden urged Turkey to take the same steps.

He commended Turkey's calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down after thousands of people have died in more than eight months of violent protests in Syria.

Biden also said the U.S. will continue to work with Turkey to pursue shared interests in the Middle East and North Africa.

He praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government for what Biden called its “real leadership.”

It was not immediately clear whether the vice president will meet with Mr. Erdogan, who is recovering from surgery.

Biden also was expected to discuss with Turkish leaders their tense relationship with Israel and Turkey's conflict with autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels. He said the United States will continue to put pressure on the Kurdistan Worker's Party , which is listed as a terrorist group by Washington and Ankara.

Biden also said that the United States will not leave behind “chaos” in Iraq, one of Turkey's southern neighbors.

He expressed concern about restrictions on freedom of expression affecting journalists in Turkey, and urged Ankara to reopen a Greek Orthodox seminary.

Biden paid tribute to Turkey's secularist founder, Kemal Ataturk, during his visit on Friday. He laid a wreath at Ataturk's mausoleum and observed a moment of silence in his memory.

The U.S. vice president will travel to Istanbul later Friday before flying to Greece to meet with its newly-elected prime minister, Lucas Papademos.