John Kerry works to bring Israel, Turkey together

ISTANBUL — Secretary of State John Kerry struggled on Sunday to convince Turkey’s leaders that they should promptly restore full diplomatic ties with Israel, two American allies counted on by President Obama to help calm the turbulent Middle East.

But Turkey demanded that Israel first end all commercial restrictions against the Palestinians before the once-close partners could end their estrangement, which stems from an Israeli raid in 2010 on a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip. Eight Turks and a Turkish-American died.

Obama revived communication between the two nations during a visit to Israel last month, and Kerry aimed to firm that up in Istanbul, the first stop in a 10-day trip.


The stakes are high, given that the United States sees Turkey and Israel as anchors of stability in a region riven by Syria’s civil war, Arab Spring political upheavals, and the potential threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

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‘‘We would like to see this relationship that is important to stability in the Middle East and critical to the peace process . . . get back on track in its full measure,’’ Kerry said at a news conference with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Kerry said that meant promises of ‘‘compensation be fulfilled, ambassadors be returned, and that full relationship be embraced.’’

He also met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and then went to Israel. After arriving there, Kerry went to the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on ways to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Kerry plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli and Palestinian officials Monday and Tuesday as part of a fresh American bid to unlock the long-stalled peace process. Conversations in Israel will also cover shared US and Israeli concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.


The other stops on Kerry’s trip are Britain, South Korea, China and Japan.

In his comments in Istanbul on Sunday, Kerry spoke of shared US and Turkish efforts to support Syria’s opposition coalition.

Kerry praised Turkey for its generosity toward refugees and commitment to keeping its borders open, an issue of growing US concern.

Associated Press