Biden: US concerned about Turkey protests

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden says only Turks can solve the problem of anti-government protests sowing unrest in Turkey. But he says the U.S. is concerned and isn’t indifferent to the outcome.

Thousands have joined rallies voicing discontent with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 10-year rule. The protests spread after police cracked down on a peaceful sit-in over an Istanbul park’s demolition.

Biden says the U.S. supports free assembly, a free press and nonviolence by government and demonstrators. He says Turkey mustn’t choose between democracy and economic progress.

Biden says the U.S. and Turkey sometimes disagree on tactics but share common goals, like a two-state solution in Israel, a non-nuclear Iran and a nonsectarian Syria.

Biden spoke at the American-Turkish Council’s annual conference. One of Turkey’s deputy prime ministers also attended.

En route to the OAS General Assembly in Guatemala, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a State Department official said. The foreign minister provided Kerry the government of Turkey’s perspective on the recent protests in Turkish cities and Kerry welcomed the update on efforts to calm the situation, the official said.

The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the conversation and requested anonymity.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Guatemala contributed to this report.

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