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Kerry urges Turkey and Israel to restore ties

US secretary of state emphasises need for reconciliation after US-brokered apology for deadly 2010 flotilla raid.

Last Modified: 07 Apr 2013 16:45
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US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Turkey and Israel to fully normalise ties, after Israel's US-brokered apology for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza aid flotilla organised by a Turkish charity.

Kerry made his comments in a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul on Sunday.

"We would like to see this relationship that is important to stability in Middle East, critical to the peace process itself, we would like to see it back on track in its full," Kerry said in a joint news conference with Davutoglu. 

He said, however, that it was not for the United States "to be setting conditions or terms" for the reconciliation.

Israel apologised to Ankara on March 22 for the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a botched raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship, in a breakthrough engineered by US President Barack Obama during a visit to Jerusalem.

The apology ended a nearly three-year rift between Israel and Turkey - two key US allies in the region - and the two countries are due to begin talks on compensation on Friday.

But they have yet to exchange ambassadors and fully restore diplomatic ties.

"It is imperative that the compensation component be fulfilled, that the ambassadors be returned," Kerry said. "I'm confident there will be goodwill on both sides."

'Oases of stability'

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology "in the name of the Turkish people" but said the country's future relationship with Israel including the return of ambassadors would depend on Israel.

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Istanbul, said that Davutoglu had already spoken to Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

"We don't know what they discussed, but its an indication that Turkey is taking some sort of interest in the Middle East peace process," said Smith.

He added that Kerry "wants Turkey to normalise its relationship with Israel because it sees Israel, Turkey and Jordan as three oases of stability in a very turbulent region."

Istanbul was Kerry's first stop of a 10-day trip to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He proceeded from Istanbul to Tel Aviv, and is expected to hold three days of talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The US top diplomat also commended Turkey's efforts to provide for the tens of thousands of refugees who have entered the country during Syria's two-year conflict.

He called Turkey "incredibly generous" for keeping its border open and doing "everything possible" to respond to the increasing humanitarian crisis in the neighbouring country.

"The US and Turkey will continue cooperating to reach the shared goal of a peaceful transition in Syria," he said, repeating the US position that President Bashar al-Assad must leave power.

"Thousands of Syrians have lost their lives," Davutoglu said. "The international community needs to act on this. The failure to do so would be interpreted by Assad as a weakness.

"The US position is important and so is Turkey’s."

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Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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