US asked Erdoğan to delay Gaza trip: Kerry

US asked Erdoğan to delay Gaza trip: Kerry

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
US asked Erdoğan to delay Gaza trip: Kerry

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) shows U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the skyline of the city before the start of a meeting in Istanbul April 21, 2013. REUTERS photo

The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said today he told Turkey’s prime minister during a meeting in Istanbul to delay his planned visit to Gaza to because of the “critical timing,” but added that it was Erdoğan’s decision to make or postpone the visit.

“We have expressed to [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] that we really think that [the visit] would be better delayed and shouldn’t take place at this point for many different reasons. Of course the prime minister will make his own decision on that,” Kerry told reporters in Istanbul, adding that the issue would be further discussed during Erdoğan’s upcoming trip to Washington.

Erdoğan had been expected to visit Gaza this month but postponed it until he travels to Washington to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on May 16.

Kerry also said Israel and Palestinians should not be distracted during this critical peace process, citing the reasons why Erdoğan should delay his planned visit top Gaza.

“But it is our feeling that … the timing of that would be critical in respect to peace process that we are trying to get off the ground. We would like to see the parties begin with as little outside distraction as possible,” Kerry said, adding that it would be more helpful for Erdoğan to wait for the right circumstances for such a visit.

The Hamas rulers of Gaza slammed Kerry for urging the Turkish prime minister to delay his visit to the Palestinian territory, Agence France-Presse reported.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Kerry and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas - who met in Istanbul earlier in the day - of "collusion in a bid to maintain the [Israeli] blockade on Gaza."

"Hamas denounces the U.S. position calling for the cancellation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Gaza. This proves U.S. involvement in consecrating the Gaza blockade," Abu Zuhri said in a statement.