Turkey's Erdogan says to visit Gaza at the end of May

ANKARA Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:34pm EDT

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media before his flight to Denmark for an official visit at Esenboga Airport in Ankara March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media before his flight to Denmark for an official visit at Esenboga Airport in Ankara March 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Umit Bektas

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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday he will visit the Palestinian Gaza Strip at the end of May after an official trip to the United States in the middle of the month.

Erdogan did not give a specific date for the visit but said during a televised speech in Ankara it would be "around the end of May". He will travel to Washington to meet President Barack Obama on May 16.

The Turkish leader, who has for years spoken of his desire to visit the Palestinian enclave, was expected to travel there this month but postponed his trip at the request of Washington, the Turkish daily Hurriyet and other local media reported.

The United States wanted the trip delayed, the reports said, so as not spoil a nascent rapprochement between Turkey and Israel following an Israeli apology in March for the killing of nine Turks in 2010.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Erdogan in Istanbul last week, his second visit to Turkey in just over a month, but it was not clear if they had discussed the Gaza visit.

Obama last month brokered a first step in reconciliation between the two former allies, whose relations were frozen after the 2010 killing by Israeli marines of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to his Turkish counterpart over the killings and pledged compensation to the bereaved, meeting a long-standing Turkish demand. Turkey, for its part, appeared to back off a separate demand that Israel stop blockading Gaza.

(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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