Turkish PM rejects U.S. request to delay Gaza visit in May
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will not reschedule his trip to the Palestinian Gaza strip, he said on Tuesday, despite a request to do so from the United States that had irked Ankara.
During a visit to Turkey on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Erdogan to delay his visit to avoid endangering U.S. efforts to revive Ankara's ties with Israel and Middle East peace talks.
Erdogan, who has always underlined his desire to visit the Palestinian enclave, said last week he planned to go to Gaza following an official visit to the United States in May.
"Delaying my trip (to Gaza) is out of question. As I said in the past the Gaza trip will take place after my trip to the United States. There will be no delay," Erdogan told reporters, according to state media.
Erdogan's trip would take place at a critical period for Turkish-Israeli relations, frozen after the 2010 killing by Israeli marines of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.
In March U.S. President Barack Obama brokered a first step in reconciliation between Israel and Turkey, which cut its once extensive ties with the Jewish state after the incident.
Persuaded by Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized last month and an Israeli delegation traveled to Ankara on Monday to discuss compensation to the victims' families.
Erdogan said his trip to Washington would be on May 14, while Turkish officials said earlier this month that his planned visit to Washington to meet Obama was on May 16.