Joe Biden issues apology to Turkey, UAE leaders

The Obama administration stands by the vice president despite recent gaffes that angered leaders in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, White House spokesman says.

Steve Marcus /Las Vegas Sun/Reuters
US Vice President Joe Biden speaks with politicians and business owners in a round table discussion on raising the minimum wage at Casa Don Juan restaurant in Las Vegas, Monday.

The White House defended Vice President Joe Biden on Monday after he was forced to call leaders in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to apologize for remarks he made suggesting they had supported Islamist militants in Syria.

"The vice president is somebody who has enough character to admit when he's made a mistake," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

"(Biden) is somebody who continues to be a core member of the president's national security team. He is somebody who has decades of experience in dealing with leaders around the globe. And the President is pleased to be able to rely on his advice as we confront the variety of challenges that are so critical to American national security."

Speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School Thursday about the civil war in Syria, Biden said that "our biggest problem is our allies," The Monitor’s Brad Knickerbocker reported Saturday.

"The Turks, who are great friends – I have a great relationship with Erdogan, whom I spend a lot of time with – the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war," Biden said.

"What did they do?" Biden continued. "They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.... Now they're trying to seal their border."

Mr. Erodan responded, "Foreign fighters have never entered Syria from our country. They may come to our country as tourists and cross into Syria, but no one can say that they cross in with their arms.”

Biden, who has a reputation for verbal missteps, also recently had to apologize for referring to people who squeeze US military personnel on loans and other financial matters as "Shylocks," a reference to a stereotypical Jewish character in Shakespeare. He also raised eyebrows for using the term "Orient" when referring to Asia.

He is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016. 

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