(AA) – A White House spokesman on Tuesday contradicted a statement by the vice president’s office that denied Joe Biden apologized to the Turkish president for comments made last month about ISIL.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest initially announced the apology in early October after Biden said Turkey had contributed to the rise of ISIL.
Although he was not present when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Biden spoke, Earnest told reporters Tuesday that the statement from Biden’s office at that time certainly indicated an apology.
“I obviously didn’t listen in on the phone call between the vice president and President Erdogan, but there’s a statement that was put out from the vice president’s office that reflected what I had related as well,” he said.
Earnest defended Biden’s position saying that the vice president was trying to make the point that the message he delivered at Harvard University, specifically to Erdogan, related to his regret about the way his comments were interpreted.
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Biden denied apologizing to Ankara, as the White House had previously said.
“I never apologized to [Turkish President Erdogan],” Biden said. “I know him well. I’ve dealt with him. I called him and said, ‘Look, what was reported was not accurate to what I said. Here’s what I said.’”
Earnest said that Biden felt because of the personal relationship he has with Erdogan, a personal phone call was warranted.
The relationship between the United States and Turkey is important, Earnst said, but he did not expect any diplomatic flap to come out of Biden’s statement.
“I’m confident that any sort of confusion that may have been created by the vice president’s original comments were subsequently cleared up in the phone call that he placed to President Erdogan a couple days later,” he said.
Earnest also noted that Turkey has contributed significantly to the international coalition against ISIL that the U.S. is leading and added that Biden has played a key role in the strong relationship with Turkey.
“One of the reasons that the United States of America has such a strong relationship with Turkey is because you have somebody like Vice President Biden, who has decades of experience in working with the leaders of that country, to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Turkey.”
An official from Biden’s office told The Anadolu Agency that “there was a genuine misunderstanding” in the statement Biden made about Turkey and ISIL.
“He did not intend to imply that Turkey intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria, the official said. “As the vice president also noted, he looks forward to meeting with President Erdogan later this month.”