Turkey can be key to Middle East peace process: US top diplomat
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (C) hosts US Secretary of State John Kerry(L) in Istanbul as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accompanies the pair during their meeting at Dolmabahçe Palace. AA photo
Turkey can play a major role in the Middle East peace process, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on April 7, describing it as a “vibrant and energized” country after meeting his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu.
“Turkey can be a key, an important contribution to the process of peace in so many ways,” Kerry told reporters in a joint press conference. He was speaking in Istanbul two weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama brokered a thaw between Turkey and Israel, whose relations were frozen by the killing of nine Turkish citizens in the deadly Mavi Marmara raid in 2010.
“I think in many, many respects a country as strong, and as vibrant as energized and as transformative as Turkey can have a profound impact by being a partner in this process,” he added.
Phone talks with Abbas and Mashaal
After talks in Turkey, Kerry headed to the West Bank, where he was scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He is also expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, in what will be his third trip to the Middle East region since the start of his tenure on Feb. 1.
Hours before Kerry’s visit, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu discussed the reconciliation process between rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, with the group’s leaders. Davutoğlu held phone talks with Palestinian President Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, discussing the current stage reached in the consensus between the two groups and the possible steps that could be taken within that scope. Davutoğlu told Palestinian officials that Turkey’s support and efforts to restore a consensus in Palestine would continue.
Kerry also called on Turkey and Israel to fully normalize their ties. “It is not for the United States to be setting conditions or terms,” Kerry said. “But we would like to see this relationship, which is important to stability in the Middle East and critical to the peace process itself, back on track in its full measure. To [achieve this], it is imperative that the compensation component of the agreement be fulfilled, that the ambassadors be returned, and that that full relationship is embraced … I am confident that there will be goodwill on both sides.”
For his part, Davutoğlu praised the efforts by President Obama and Kerry to help reconcile the two countries. “Now it will be important to make progress in fulfilling the conditions by taking rational and principled steps,” Davutoğlu said. “We have overcome the apology issue and now we’ll hold talks about compensation.”
Davutoğlu and Kerry said they had discussed the two-year-old civil war in Syria, including the shared goal for a peaceful transition there. They said a meeting of a core group of the Friends of Syria would take place soon. Kerry praised Turkey for its “generosity” toward refugees and commitment to keeping its borders open. The Iraq and the Cyprus issues were also on the agenda during their meeting.