John Kerry Urges Israel and Turkey To Normalize Ties

Act Could Help Stabilize the Region, Says Kerry

John Kerry meets with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul.
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John Kerry meets with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul.

By Reuters

Published April 07, 2013.
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Despite Obama’s having pulled off a diplomatic coup - a three-way telephone call with the Israeli and Turkish prime ministers, who had not spoken since 2011, some officials in Washington are worried Turkey might be backtracking on the deal.

Hours after the Israeli apology, large billboard posters sanctioned by Turkey’s ruling party mayor, appeared in the Turkish capital showing a glum-looking Netanyahu next to a glowing picture of Erdogan, suggesting some in Ankara were taking a triumphalist tone.

Erdogan then told a rally broadcast live on television that the apology signalled Turkey’s growing regional clout.

But Kerry said Turkey had responded “sensitively” and “thoughtfully” to the apology. “They have taken steps to try to prevent any sense of triumphalism. It has not come from the government. In fact, there has been limited response by the government itself and I think it’s important for everybody to take note of that,” Kerry said.

REFUGEE CHALLENGE

Both Kerry and Davutoglu said they had discussed the two-year-old civil war in Syria, including the shared goal for a peaceful transition there. They said a meeting of a core group of the Friends of Syria would take place soon.

One of the underlying motivations for the Israeli-Turkish rapprochement, at least on the Israeli side, has been a desire to secure allies in the region as Syria’s conflict next door churns into its third year.

A senior U.S. official told reporters with Kerry that during the visit to Istanbul the secretary of state would also reiterate “the importance of keeping the borders open to Syrians fleeing from violence”.

The official said this was a reference to reports, which Turkey denied on March 28, that it had rounded up and deported hundreds of Syrian refugees following unrest at a border camp.

Witnesses said hundreds of Syrians were bussed to the border after clashes in which refugees in the Suleymansah camp, near the Turkish town of Akcakale, threw rocks at military police, who fired teargas and water cannon.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said 130 people, identified as being “involved in the provocations,” crossed back into Syria voluntarily, either because they did not want to face judicial proceedings or because of repercussions from other refugees.

The incident highlighted the strain that the exodus from Syria’s war is placing on neighbouring states.

Since the outset of the Syrian conflagration, more than 1.2 million Syrians fleeing violence and persecution have registered as refugees or have awaited processing in neighboring countries and North Africa, according to U.N. figures.

They include 261,635 in Turkey, mostly staying in 17 camps, many of them teeming.


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