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Kerry Urges Turkey PM To Delay Gaza Visit

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul (file photo).
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Turkey’s Prime Minister to delay a visit to the Gaza Strip, as he pushes for improved Israeli-Turkish ties.

Speaking in Istanbul on April 21, Kerry told reporter he had asked Recep Tayyip Erdogan to wait for the "right conditions."

"With respect to [Turkish] Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan's] potential visit to Gaza we have expressed to the Prime Minister that we really think that it would be better delayed and that it shouldn't take place at this point of time for numbers of different reasons," Kerry said.

"Prime Minister [Erdogan] has obviously a right to make decisions about what he does, where he goes but it was our feeling in a constructive way that we thought that the timing of it is really critical with respect to the peace process that we are trying to get off the ground."

Kerry's comments come after Erdogan last week said he would visit the restive Palestinian territory at the end of next month.

Erdogan, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, had earlier planned to visit Gaza this month to help lift an Israeli embargo.

But the trip was delayed after a warning from Washington, which last month brokered a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel.

Kerry maintained that improved ties between Turkey and Israel will ensure that the sides can work together on pressing issues such as the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program.

"This rapprochement [between Israel and Turkey] puts us in a position to be able to not allow us to be divided on something of as enormous consequences as [the] potential of a nuclear program in Iran, which still has not been adequately answered," he said.

Israel last month apologized for the deaths of nine Turks during a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. The incident saw ties plummet between the two former allies.

But for full normalization in relations, Ankara has said Israel must lift its restrictions on Gaza and pay compensation for the flotilla victims.

That compensation issue is expected to be discussed in Ankara with a visiting Israeli delegation on April 22.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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