Biden to visit Turkey amid tensions over cleric’s extradition

Vice President Joe Biden will visit Turkey later this month, the White House announced Friday.

His visit scheduled for August 24 will mark the first by a top Western leader since the attempted coup on July 15th. The trip comes at a time of strained relations between Ankara and Washington over demands that the U.S. turn over an Islamic cleric blamed for organizing the coup attempt.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency is reporting that Turkish officials have prepared an official request for the U.S. to arrest Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen over his links to the coup.

Earlier this week Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey had received “positive signals” from Washington regarding the cleric’s extradition.

But Prime Minister Binali Yildrim reiterated that the Vice President’s visit would not open up discussion of compromise on the issue.

“Improving our relations with the United States depends on the extradition of Gulen, and on that issue there is no room for negotiation,” Yildrim said, according to CNN Turk.

Ankara already has asked for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, whom it accuses of the plot to take down President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the failed coup attempt earlier this summer.

The United States has replied that it must have evidence against the cleric, who is a former ally of the president, in order to justify turning him over to Turkey.