Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not likely to postpone his trip
to the Gaza Strip planned for late May, despite US Secretary of State John Kerry
and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas having asked him to cancel or
delay the visit, London-based pan-Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat quoted Turkish
officials as saying on Monday.
Abbas visited Istanbul over the weekend to
ask Erdogan to cancel his plans to visit Gaza.
“President Abbas is hoping
to convince Erdogan to cancel the visit or delay it until the Palestinians
achieve national unity,” a PA official in Ramallah said last week.
believes that a visit by Erdogan to Gaza would deepen Palestinian divisions,
said Azzam al- Ahmed, member of the Fatah Central Committee and a close adviser
But on Monday Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said
any request to prevent Erdogan’s trip was “objectionable.”
Turkish government decides when and where the prime minister or any other
Turkish official travels to,” Arinc told reporters.
According to Turkish
officials, Erdogan is sensitive to Abbas’s concerns, but believes it is
important to make his visit to Gaza close to May 31, the three-year anniversary
of the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, in which nine pro-Palestinian Turks
hoping to break the blockade of Gaza were killed by Israeli
Erdogan is floating the idea of first visiting Abbas in Ramallah,
and using the trip as a springboard to advance reconciliation efforts between
Fatah and Hamas, Asharq Alawsat reported.
Kerry said on Sunday that the
US had told Erdogan it would be better for him to delay the planned trip to
Gaza. 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
Erdogan had originally been expected to visit Gaza in April,
but postponed his trip at the request of the United States. He will travel to
Washington to meet US President Barack Obama on May 16.Israeli
negotiators traveled to Turkey
on Monday to begin talks to advance the further
normalization of ties between the countries following Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s apology to Erdogan over the Mavi Marmara last month.
envoys are expected to discuss the amount of reparations Israel would pay to the
families of the Turks killed in the Mavi Marmara raid.Reuters and Khaled
Abu Toameh contributed to this report.