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Rift in Turkey’s ruling party over US election as heavyweight favors Biden, Erdoğan remains silent

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Bülent Arınç, a member of Turkey’s Presidential High Advisory Board, expressed a preference for US President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday, exposing a rift within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as party officials remain silent over the outcome of the US election.

Arınç, a founding member of the AKP, said on a live broadcast on Saturday that he would rather have Joe Biden as president of the United States than current President Donald Trump, who stills refuses to concede defeat despite major news outlets calling the race for his opponent, who has a substantial lead over the incumbent.

“If there are still people who dream of Trump [in power], they should know that the dream is over,” Arınç said, underlining that Turkish-US relations would be better with Biden as president.

Bülent Arınç, then Deputy Prime Minister, is seen with then Vice President Joe Biden, during a visit in November 2013.

“My choice was Biden. We had some dealings with him back then when I served as deputy prime minister. If you ask me about the future of US-Turkey relations, I would say they won’t be worse than today. From now on, it will absolutely be better than the present day,” Arınç said.

Emphasizing the strategic nature of the bilateral relationship with Washington, Arınç said Turkey should do its part to have better ties with the US.

“Our foreign policy should be in harmony with US foreign policy. If we reinstate that harmony, Biden’s victory could offer prospects for Turkey. Relations with Biden would favor Turkey immensely,” Arınç remarked.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had invested heavily in a Trump win, with pro-government outlets frequently attacking the opposition for favoring Biden.

Back in August, Biden’s comments on Erdoğan made to a group of New York Times staff in December 2019 surfaced in Turkish media, prompting a backlash from officials who condemned Biden, labeling his words as “arrogant and ignorant.”

“What I think we should be doing is taking a very different approach to him (Erdoğan) now, making it clear that we support opposition leadership,” Biden said at the time.

“He has to pay a price,” Biden said, adding that Washington should encourage Turkish opposition leaders “to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan. Not by a coup, not by a coup, but by the electoral process.”

The Turkish government has remained silent since the race was called for Biden on Saturday, with Erdoğan refraining from congratulating the president-elect.

According to observers, Erdoğan still has some favors to ask of Trump, who is in denial over the outcome of the election, decrying the process as fraudulent as his legal team presses on with lawsuits in several battleground states.

Erdoğan’s warm ties with Trump allowed him to flex military muscle in Syria, Libya, the eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus, according to a Reuters analysis published in October, filling some gaps left by a US retreat from the region in recent years.

Kirsten Fontenrose, former senior director for Gulf affairs at the National Security Council in the Trump administration, told Financial Times on September 20 that a possible Biden administration would not have the close relations Trump has with the strongmen of the Middle East, including Turkish President Erdoğan.

“Every country whose leaders have close relationships with the current president are going to find themselves out in the cold if Biden takes office. I think that’s going to be Egypt, maybe Turkey, definitely Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Financial Times quoted Fontenrose as saying.

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