Kerry Praises Turkey, Urges Reconciliation With Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks during a joint news conference with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at Ciragan Palace in Istanbul on Sunday. (REUTERS)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks during a joint news conference with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at Ciragan Palace in Istanbul on Sunday. (REUTERS)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry downplayed expressions of triumphalism in Turkey over Israel’s recent apology for the deaths of nine Turkish citizens in the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, and urged the two countries to restore full relations.

Kerry said on Sunday that a bilateral rapprochement was vital to regional stability, although it was not up to Washington to dictate the conditions.

Hours after news of the Israeli apology broke, 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, Reuters reported.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan then told a rally broadcast live that the apology signalled Turkey’s regional ascendancy. Another Turkish official called it a triumph of Turkish foreign policy.

Nevertheless, Kerry maintained that 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.

He was speaking in Istanbul some two weeks after President Barack Obama brokered the diplomatic thaw. The phone call of apology from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Erdogan was the first direct conversation between the two since 2011.

Behind Kerry’s remarks was concern among some officials in Washington that Turkey might be backtracking on the deal, Reuters said.

“With respect to the Israel-Turkey track, it is not for the United States to be setting conditions or terms,” Kerry told reporters alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

“We would like to see this relationship that is important to stability in the Middle East, critical to the peace process itself — we would like to see this relationship get back on track in its full measure,” he said.

“To be back on track in its full measure, it is imperative that the compensation component of the agreement be fulfilled, that the ambassadors be returned and that full relationship be embraced, but it’s not up to us to discuss the timing.”

Israeli and Turkish officials have declined to comment on any specific timeline.

Kerry traveled to Israel to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials later on Sunday.