Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that he will likely delay a trip to the Gaza Strip planned for April to sometime after his May 16 meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.
“It will probably take place after my visit to America,” the Turkish prime minster stated. Erdogan's comments came days after US Secretary of State John Kerry met with him in Istanbul, urging the Turkish leader to reconsider traveling to Gaza in April.
Erdogan also said Tuesday, according to Hurriyet, that Kerry would again be visiting Turkey later this month as part of an international meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People contact group aimed at increasing efforts to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Erdogan announced his intention to visit Gaza shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized to him for the death of nine Turks during the 2010 IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara
. The apology was brokered by Obama, who was visiting Israel at the time.
While not directly referring to Erdogan’s announced intention to visit Gaza, US State Department spokeswoman Vitoria Nuland said last week that in the past the US has urged senior Turkish officials that any contact with Hamas be “in service to the greater issue of stability and peace, and that the fundamental underlying tenets of the Quartet principles be reiterated as the necessary precondition.” The Quartet principles are that Hamas recognize Israel, forswear terrorism and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Erdogan has announced on several occasions that he planned to travel to Gaza, but has eventually cancelled the plans. The US has in the past urged Erdogan to refrain from making the trip, arguing it would undercut Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and strengthen Hamas.Herb Keinon contributed to this report