Biden, Erdogan Discuss Syrian Regime Change


U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have discussed a Syrian transition of power away from the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Biden told reporters Saturday that he and Erdogan went over the matter during a four-hour meeting earlier in the day. He said they also talked about denying Islamic State militants a safe haven in Iraq and Syria.

In the past, Erdogan has insisted if the U.S. wants Turkish help, it must focus less on fighting IS extremists and more on toppling the Assad regime. On Saturday, he said Turkey will continue working closely with the United States, and he called Biden’s visit “very meaningful.”

Biden said the United States will continue to help Turkey cope with the humanitarian crisis created by 1.6 million Syrian refugees flooding into Turkish refugee camps.

Meanwhile the White House announced the U.S. will give $135 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help Turkey and other nations care for refugees fleeing violence in Syria.

Most of that funding is slated for the World Food Program, to be used for household food rations and food vouchers for refugees. Nearly $11 million of the funds will go to support the World Food Program in Turkey.

Earlier Saturday, the U.S. vice president called on Europe to diversify its energy supplies to reduce its dependence on Russia.

Speaking at an energy summit in Istanbul, Biden said “now” is the time to act. He said Ukraine’s energy supply problems only underscore the urgency.

Russia has traditionally supplied Ukraine’s east with gas, but cut off supplies in July in a dispute over Ukraine’s unpaid debts. With the onset of winter, the supply issue has become increasingly tense, giving Russia more power in the dispute over eastern Ukraine.

Biden meets Sunday with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew before returning to Washington.