ME: Erdogan confirms Gaza visit, ignores US request

23 April, 15:17

    (ANSAmed) - ANKARA, April 23 - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has said that he will go ahead with a planned visit to the Gaza Strip at the end of May despite a request by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday to put back the trip. "I won't be postponing the trip," Erdogan told journalists on Turkish TV, adding that no date will be fixed for the visit until after a White House meeting with US President Barack Obama on May 16. After talks with the Turkish Premiere in Istanbul Sunday John Kerry told reporters that he had asked Erdogan to put back the trip until the "circumstances were better". The US, along with Palestinian President Abu Mazen, say that a visit by Erdogan now would bolster Islamic movement Hamas, who have taken power in the Strip, and could threaten the peace process. On hearing the news Sunday, Hamas accused Kerry of being in "collusion with Mazen" to prolong the Gaza blockade. Mazen and the US had hoped that the visit would come after a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, Turkish press reports.

    On Monday Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc slammed Kerry, saying it "is up to the Turkish government to decide where and when our prime minister goes".

    Erdogan, who has close ties with Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, joined in the criticism, saying it would have been better if Kerry "hadn't said what he did". (ANSAmed)
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