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Joe Biden ahead of Syrian peace talks: 'We are prepared to have a military solution'

The United States vice president also spoke against Turkey's treatment of political dissent during his visit to Istanbul Saturday.
By Marilyn Malara   |   Jan. 23, 2016 at 10:45 AM
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ISTANBUL, Turkey, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Vice President Joe Biden said the United States is prepared to present a "military solution" if Syrian peace talks fall through.

During a speech following his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul Saturday, Biden said the two agreed to "improve the support of local Sunni Arab forces" working to further secure the Syrian border in the aftermath of a recent terrorist attack in the city's tourist district.

"And so together we continue to work toward a political resolution of the situation in Syria. We are neither optimistic nor pessimistic," Biden said. "But we are prepared. We are prepared if that's not possible to make -- to have a military solution to this operation in taking out daesh."

Biden arrived in Istanbul Friday with his family to meet with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Davutoglu to discuss the border as the United States and others continue to confront the Islamic State in the region.

"We'll have pretty detailed conversations with the Turks about what their plans are on their side of the border, for locking their side of the border down, and how we can help them in terms of technical assistance, in terms of intelligence," an official on Biden's team said ahead of the meeting, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The meetings come immediately after Biden publicly criticized Erdogan's administration's treatment of government critics, saying imprisonment and condemnation sets a poor example for how the rest of the region should behave toward freedom of expression.

Having arrived in Istanbul Friday, Biden commenced his visit by disapproving Erdogan's recent treatment of academics, political opposition and critical journalists who have expressed dissent.

"When the media are intimidated or imprisoned for critical reporting, when Internet freedom is curtailed and social media sites...shut down, when more than 1,000 academics are accused of treason simply by signing a petition, that's not the kind of example that needs to be set in the region," Biden said during a meeting with local journalists and civil representatives, according to the Washington Post.

"Some of you are stupid. Some of you are brilliant. Some of you are right. Some of you are wrong. Some of you are venal. Some of you are noble. But the freedom of the press is where my own freedom lies, and everyone else's," he is also quoted as saying before asking the press to leave.

Turkish officials have not yet publicly responded to Biden's comments on freedom of speech.

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