US deputy leader Biden apologises to Turkey's Erdogan over militant funding claim

United States Vice-President Joe Biden, seen here (above) in August 2014, on Saturday apologised to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over comments suggesting that Ankara and other regional powers had financed and armed militant organisations in
United States Vice-President Joe Biden, seen here (above) in August 2014, on Saturday apologised to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over comments suggesting that Ankara and other regional powers had financed and armed militant organisations in Syria. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States Vice-President Joe Biden on Saturday apologised to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over comments suggesting that Ankara and other regional powers had financed and armed militant organisations in Syria.

Mr Erdogan reacted furiously earlier on Saturday at comments made by Mr Biden at Harvard University on Thursday, in which the Vice-President criticised allies in Turkey and the Arab world for supporting Sunni militant groups in Syria such as the Islamic State (IS) group and Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra.

"If Mr Biden used such language, that would make him a man of the past for me," Mr Erdogan told a press conference in Istanbul.

"No one can accuse Turkey of having supported any terrorist organisation in Syria, including IS," he said.

A statement from Mr Biden's office released in Washington said the deputy US leader had called Mr Erdogan to "clarify" his remarks.

"The Vice-President apologised for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria," a summary of the phone call said, using a common acronym for the Islamic State group.

"The Vice-President made clear that the United States greatly values the commitments and sacrifices made by our allies and partners from around the world to combat the scourge of ISIL, including Turkey.

"The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of Turkey and the United States working closely together to confront ISIL."