World Bulletin/News Desk
Turkey on Monday criticised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for asking Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to delay his planned visit to the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in a blunt put-down that underlined often prickly ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan, who has for years spoken of his desire to visit the Palestinian enclave, said last week he planned to go in late May after an official visit to the United States earlier in the same month.
But during a visit to Turkey on Sunday, Kerry said he had asked the Turkish leader to delay his visit so as not to upset U.S. efforts to revive Ankara's ties with Israel and Middle East peace talks.
"Mr. Kerry's statement ... from a diplomatic perspective was objectionable, wrong and was incorrect," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters in Ankara.
"Only the Turkish government decides when and where the prime minister or any other Turkish official travels to," said Arinc, who also serves as the government spokesman.
During a visit to Turkey in March, Kerry also called a comment by Erdogan likening Zionism to crimes against humanity "objectionable", in a disagreement that has cast a pall over talks between Turkey and the United States.
Erdogan had been expected to visit this month but postponed his trip, apparently at the request of the United States. However, Arinc said Erdogan would have visited this month had his schedule allowed.
He will travel to Washington to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on May 16.
Erdogan's planned trip would also come at a sensitive time for Turkish-Israeli relations, frozen after the 2010 killing by Israeli marines of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.
In March Obama brokered a first step in reconciliation between Turkey and Israel, two main allies of Washington in the Middle East, by persuading Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologise to Turkey over the incident.
An Israeli delegation was in Ankara on Monday for the first time since 2010 to discuss compensation to the victims' families.
"The meeting was generally a positive meeting ... the amount of compensation was not discussed ... and was not determined, but methods and rules of calculating the amount were discussed during the meeting," Arinc said after the talks.
Arinc said a second and possible third meeting would be held in order to resolve the issue, which would be a "major step toward full restoration of diplomatic ties".
The head of the Turkish delegation meeting the Israelis said the next meeting would be held in the next few days.
Turkey cut its once extensive ties with the Jewish state after the so-called "Mavi Marmara" incident in 2010, named after the Turkish ship which led the flotilla that tried to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza.
Ankara expelled Israel's ambassador and froze military cooperation after a U.N. report into the incident, released in September 2011, largely exonerated the Jewish state.
It set precise conditions for normalizing ties - an apology, compensation and Israel lifting its embargo on Gaza.
But for all the diplomatic flurry, a full restoration of ties still appeared some way off.
Israel has made clear it did not commit to ending its Gaza blockade as part of the reconciliation, an oft-repeated Turkish demand, saying days after the apology that it could clamp down even harder on the enclave if security was threatened.
Turkish foreign minister held talks with his Jordanian counterpart in Amman
‘We do not see any reason that they [Assad regime’s forces] clash with our soldiers,’ says Erdogan Ozegen
969 undocumented migrants attempted to cross Turkish-Syrian and Turkish-Greek borders
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reasserts Turkey’s sensitivity towards Syria’s territorial integrity
Earlier President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also offered his condolences letter to Iran’s Hassan Rouhani
Turkey's ruling party and opposition MHP agree to make some changes in electoral system to form allience
On day 30 of Operation Olive Branch, Turkey targets terrorist PYD/PKK positions in northwestern Syria
Turkey is against chemical weapons and has never used them, says Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
No decision on any matter concerning our region can be taken if Turkey is not included, says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Saturday's attack in Borno State left 21 dead, 22 injured
Binali Yildirim urges Germany to put behind misunderstandings that had risen over past few months
Mevlut Cavusoglu will discuss bilateral relations, regional developments with Ayman al-Safadi
Erdogan says Turkish military advanced 300 square kilometres during Operation Olive Branch
Presidential spokesman says US should start process of disengaging from YPG
Sigmar Gabriel says Turkey is 'big and influential country'