ISTANBUL, Turkey – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to delay a planned visit to the Gaza Strip, saying it could jeopardize efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Ending a two-day visit to Istanbul, Kerry told reporters Sunday that he believed that “it would be more helpful (for Erdogan) to wait for the right circumstance. … We’re trying to get off the ground, and we would like to see the parties with as little outside distraction as possible.”
Kerry met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other Turkish officials, but didn’t see Erdogan.
Both the Israelis and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have voiced unhappiness with Erdogan’s plans.
Erdogan has been pushing for Israel to ease its partial embargo on the entry of goods into Gaza, and has announced plans to visit the impoverished seaside zone in the next few weeks.
The move could complicate efforts to begin a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel. Former allies, they have been estranged since Israeli soldiers killed Turks when a Turkish flotilla sought to breach the naval blockade of Gaza in 2010.
At President Barack Obama’s urging, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally apologized to Turkey last month. An Israeli delegation is scheduled to meet with Turkish officials today to discuss compensation for the families of the Turks who were killed.