U.S. Vice President Joe Biden criticized the European Union Friday for not fully embracing Turkey, stressing the "inordinate influence" of a country that is a close American ally.
Biden, at a fund-raising event for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, told members of the Turkish-American community that Ankara has been "one of our most valuable and proudest allies."
Biden said he and Obama have been "very, very critical of some of our European allies for not fully embracing Turkey in the economic union, for not fully embracing Turkey as part of Europe.
"The way we look at Turkey is, it's the gateway, it's the hinge between the East and West. It has inordinate influence," he said.
He said the Obama administration and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were "on the same page with respect to Syria."
On the Arab democracy movements, Biden said, "No one knows whether that spring will turn to winter tomorrow. Nobody knows exactly how that's going to go. But with the strong leadership of Turkey we are reassured. There's nothing we do that we don't coordinate."
Turkey's minister of European affairs, Egemen Bagis, said on April 5 that European officials were creating difficulties for Turkey's bid for EU membership but would not succeed.
"No country faces as many impediments, as many challenges and difficulties as my country" in its bid for EU membership, Bagis said in Bucharest, citing, among others, visa requirements and a slow negotiation process.
"Those politicians around Europe who think that by making these difficulties they can make Turkey go away are dead wrong," he said.
The talks have stalled over problems relating to EU member Cyprus, whose northern third was invaded and occupied by Turkey in 1974, and countries such as Austria, France and Germany that are reluctant to grant full membership.
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