US Vice President Joe Biden has apologized to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after alleging that the leader allowed foreign fighters allied with the Islamic State to cross into Syria. Erdogan was outraged over the remark.
Biden presented his apology in a phone call to Erdogan on Saturday, the White House said.
Speaking at Harvard University on Thursday, Biden claimed that “President Erdogan told me, he is an old friend, said you were right, we let too many people through, now we are trying to seal the border.”
Responding to the remark, Erdogan said he “never admitted any mistakes.”
“If Biden told these words, then he will be history to me. I never uttered such remarks,” the Turkish leader said. “He should apologize. I’m saying this clearly. And we won’t accept slender, indirect explanations.”
During the phone call with Erdogan, Biden “apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL (IS, ISIS) or other violent extremists in Syria,” the White House said.
On Thursday, Biden blamed America’s allies in the region – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – for allowing the rise of the Islamic State, saying they supported extremists with money and weapons in their eagerness to oust the Assad regime in Syria.
“Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria,” he said. He went on to explain that such allies were “so determined to take down Assad,” that in a sense they started a “proxy Sunni-Shia war” by pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons” towards anyone who would fight against the Syrian leader.