Kerry in Turkey for Middle East discussion

March 16, 2013 at 11:48 AM
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ANKARA, Turkey, March 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the Middle East this weekend during a visit to Turkey in advance of President Obama's trip to Israel.

Turkey is seen by the White House as a key to easing long-running tensions in the Middle East, and Kerry traveled to Ankara to increase the level of the dialogue between the two NATO allies.

Turkish and U.S. officials told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News there were no particular burning issues atop Kerry's agenda.

At the same time, Turkey has been critical of Israel's seeming refusal to compromise in the Middle East peace process. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently raised the ire of members of the U.S. Congress with remarks blasting Zionism.

"At a time when formation of a new coalition government in Israel seems imminent, and U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel is so close, and given the fact that Mr. Obama will also hold meetings with Palestinian leaders, there are certain sticky points which should be treated with utmost care," an anonymous Turkish official told the newspaper. Obama begins a three-day visit to Israel on Wednesday.

Kerry held two telephone discussions with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu before boarding his plane to Europe, Hurriyet said.

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