ISTANBUL - Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the United States had told Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan it would be better for him to delay a planned trip to the Palestinian Gaza Strip expected at the end of May.
Erdogan, who has for years spoken of his desire to visit the Palestinian enclave, said last week he would go there after an official visit to the United States next month. But Kerry said a Turkish visit might distract from efforts to revive Middle East peace talks.
"We thought that the timing of it is really critical with respect to the peace process we are trying to get off the ground and that we would like to see the parties begin with as little outside distraction as possible," Kerry told a news conference in Istanbul.
The planned trip also would come at a sensitive time for Turkish-Israeli relations, with Washington keen to avoid spoiling a rapprochement between them following an Israeli apology in March for the killing of nine Turks in 2010.
Kerry has paid several visits to the region in recent weeks, holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as he seeks ways to revive Middle East peace talks.
Erdogan had been expected to visit Gaza this month but postponed his trip at the request of the United States. He will travel to Washington to meet President Barack Obama on May 16. (Reuters)