Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan confirmed on Sunday he will visit the Palestinian Gaza Strip at the end of May after an official trip to the United States in the middle of the month.
Erdogan did not give a specific date for the visit but said during a televised speech in Ankara it would be "around the end of May". He will travel to Washington to meet President Barack Obama on May 16.
The Turkish leader, who has for years spoken of his desire to visit the Palestinian enclave, was expected to travel there this month but postponed his trip last week at the request of Washington, the Turkish daily Hurriyet and other local media reported.
The United States wanted the trip delayed, the reports said, so as not spoil a nascent rapprochement between Turkey and Israel following an Israeli apology in March for the killing of nine Turks in 2010.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Erdogan in Istanbul last week, his second visit to Turkey in just over a month, but it was not clear if they had discussed the Gaza visit.
Turkey and Israel were once close partners, but the relationship plummeted after the deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish-flagged Gaza bound flotilla in 2010/ Obama kick started the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel during his visit to the region last month. Fixing the Turkish-Israeli relationship has been a long-sought goal of the Obama administration, and the U.S. desperately wants significant progress by the time Erdogan visits the White House in mid-May.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to his Turkish counterpart over the killings and pledged compensation to the bereaved, meeting a long-standing Turkish demand. Turkey is still demanding that Israel lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip, however, prior to reconciliation.
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