President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at a joint press conference in Ankara on Wednesday that the extradition of the U.S.-based leader of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) is a top priority for Turkey.
Erdoğan told Biden that the U.S. could "at least" detain the FETÖ leader, whom Ankara holds responsible for the deadly attempted coup on July 15, during which more than 240 people were killed.
Gülen lives in self-imposed exile in the U.S., and state prosecutors in Turkey accuse him of leading a long-running campaign to overthrow the democratically-elected Turkish government through the infiltration of state institutions, in particular the military, police and judiciary, forming what prosecutors term as a "parallel state."
On Wednesday, Biden visited the Turkish Parliament in Ankara and saw the heavy damage from the July coup attempt, saying later: "I saw some of the damage myself today, and met some of the members of your Parliament, including the speaker. I can understand Mr. President how some of your countrymen would feel that the world didn't respond to the existential crisis your country is facing rapidly enough. That's why I wanted to personally be here, and I was asked by the [U.S.] president to personally be here to represent him, to tell you and all of your colleagues and your countrymen how very, very sorry I am, the president is and the American people are for the suffering and loss you have endured."
Biden reiterated that the "U.S. stands with our ally Turkey, we support the people of Turkey and Turkey has the [U.S.'s] unwavering support. This attempted coup was an attack on the people of Turkey, not just the government."
He added that the U.S. was "committed to doing everything we can to help bring justice for all those responsible for this coup attempt. Even as [we] speak, our American experts are on the ground here in Ankara, meeting with your people, closely coordinating with our Turkish counterparts to evaluate and gather material with regard to the Turkish request to extradite Gülen, in accordance with our bilateral extradition treaty. We have more lawyers working on this case than on any other extradition in recent history."
During his earlier meeting with the Speaker of Parliament Ismail Kahraman, Biden said: "[We] wish Gülen were in another country, not in the U.S."
The Erdoğan-Biden meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara lasted around two-and-a-half hours.
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