Pentagon denies report that Hagel to visit Turkey soon

WASHINGTON Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:37pm EDT

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gives a speech on fiscal defense spending at Ft. McNair in Washington April 3, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gives a speech on fiscal defense spending at Ft. McNair in Washington April 3, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon denied a report from Ankara on Wednesday that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was shortly to visit Turkey, one of Washington's closest allies in the Middle East region.

"While Secretary Hagel looks forward to visiting Turkey - a key U.S. ally-- as soon as a date can be arranged, he is not planning to visit Turkey this month," Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a Turkish official in Ankara said that Hagel would make the visit around the time of a trip to Israel set for April 21-23. Turkey has borders with war-ravaged Syria, as well as with Iran and Iraq.

The United States has had intensive contacts with Turkey in recent months. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Turkey over the weekend for his second visit there in just over a month.

During that visit, Kerry and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a core group of the Friends of Syria should convene soon and Kerry urged Turkey to fully normalize ties with Israel.

(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker in Ankara and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by David Storey)

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