Turkish PM to visit Gaza despite US request for delay

Istanbul, April 22 (IANS) Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists on visiting Gaza following his trip to the US despite US request for a delay, reported Xinhua Monday citing local media.

Local Daily News quoted a Turkish official as saying there will be no changes in Erdogan’s Gaza visit although Washington asked him to postpone it due to the “critical timing.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said however, “the issue will be discussed during Erdogan’s visit (to the US) on May 16.”

On Sunday, visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry said at a press conference in Istanbul that Washington had asked Erdogan to delay his Gaza trip.

He said the timing of the visit “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.”

According to a US diplomat, Erdogan listened to the U.S. suggestion “graciously” and “is very sensitive on the issue.”

The Turkish prime minister has sparked concerns by announcing his intention to visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip next month.

Erdogan had been expected to visit Gaza in April but decided to put it off after he has visited the US.

The Gaza trip would come at a sensitive time for the Turkish- Israeli relations as Washington hopes to further push the rapprochement between its two allies in the Middle East region.

Ties between the two countries showed sign of improvement after Israel apologized in March for its 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla where eight Turks and one Turkish American were killed.

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