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Kerry: Turkey-Israel reconciliation would help peace bid

(JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Israel and Turkey to reconcile completely, saying it would help with peacemaking in the Middle East.

"With respect to the Israel-Turkey track, it is not for the United States to be setting conditions or terms," Kerry said Sunday in Istanbul following a meeting with 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.”

Turkey and Israel agreed last month to normalize ties after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for Israel’s 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara ship as it attempted to break a maritime blockade of Gaza. Netanyahu also agreed to compensate the families of nine Turks killed in the ensuing violence when Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Netanyahu also agreed to ease the restriction of goods flowing into Gaza. Erdogan added that the normalization of relations with Israel would take time and would not take place until Israel fulfills the agreement. Erdogan is scheduled to visit the Hamas-run Gaza Strip this month.

An Israeli delegation is scheduled to arrive in Turkey later this week to discuss the Marmara compensation.

Kerry called on Israel to fulfill its obligation to compensate the Marmara victims’ families. He also said he hoped that the two counties’ "full relationship be embraced, but it’s not up to us to discuss the timing."

Turkey withdrew its high-level diplomats from Israel and froze deals with Israel’s military in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident. Davutoglu said Sunday that Turkey would continue to press Israel to end its blockade of Gaza.

Kerry said in answer to a reporter’s question that Turkey could help both the West Bank and Gaza transform their economies, and by "helping to create the climate for peace within the community of nations."

Kerry landed in Israel on Sunday evening and is meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. On Monday, he will sit down with Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jerusalem. The following day, Kerry is to meet with Netanyahu.

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