Israel, Turkey detente vital for Mideast peace: Kerry

Israel and Turkey's recent rapprochement is a vital factor in developing peace and stability in the Middle East, US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

US President Barack Obama brokered the tentative reconciliation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday during his visit to Israel.

"The reconciliation between Israel and Turkey is a very important development that will help advance the cause of peace and stability in the region," Kerry said in a statement Saturday from the Jordanian capital Amman.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Erdogan deserve great credit for showing the leadership necessary to make this possible," he added.

"We look forward to an expeditious implementation of the agreement and the full normalisation of relations so Israel and Turkey can work together to advance their common interests."

Kerry, who held talks with Netanyahu after an earlier meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, said the rapprochement would help Israel meet the regional challenges it faces.

The top US diplomat "had useful follow up meetings with both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu," a senior State Department official told journalists in Amman.

"In both meetings, Secretary Kerry reiterated that peace is not only possible, but necessary for the future of the Israeli and Palestinian people."

On Friday, Netanyahu apologised for a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla during which Israeli soldiers killed nine Turks during a raid.

He announced the resumption of full diplomatic ties between the two countries after a three-year rift and pledged to continue lifting restrictions on goods entering Palestine "as long as calm prevailed."

Erdogan followed up by announcing plans to visit the Palestinian territories.

"It is possible that I will visit Gaza and the West Bank during the course of this month or the next," state news agency Anatolia quoted Erdogan as telling journalists.

The visit, he said, would serve to facilitate the process of lifting the Israeli embargo on Palestinian territories, as promised by Netanyahu.

A spokesman for the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip confirmed that Erdogan would be visiting.

Kerry accompanied Obama on his four-day visit to the region, during which the pair met top Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

During his visit, Obama did not reach a visible breakthrough in the impasse between the Israelis and Palestinians, who have not been engaged in direct talks for more than two years.

Kerry will be Obama's new pointman on the Middle East, as part of renewed US efforts to push the sides back to negotiations.

Abbas wants to renew peace talks in tandem with a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and in east Jerusalem, but the Israelis insist on no preconditions.

- AFP

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