Sen. Kerry: Israel, Turkey Must Overcome Tensions

A senior U.S. senator called on Turkey and Israel to overcome recent tensions and renew close ties to help with peace efforts in the Middle East.

John Kerry, who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told a group of journalists Tuesday that doing so could help Israel's relations with Syria and Lebanon.

"It is important that Turkey and Israel renew relations and go back to the way they were," Kerry said.

Israel and Turkey built strong military and economic ties over the past 15 years, and Turkey became Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world.

Relations between the two soured, however, with Turkey's Islamic-oriented government's increasingly vociferous criticism of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. They hit an all-time low in May, when Israeli naval commandos killed nine activists from Turkey on board a Gaza-bound ship that tried to breach Israel's naval blockade.

Turkey has made an Israeli apology and compensation for the victims' families a condition for improved ties. Israeli commandos said they opened fire in self-defense after meeting what they called unexpected resistance when they boarded the ferry carrying aid supplies to Gaza.

Kerry said he understood Turkey's strong reaction to the incident, but said Israel "had acknowledged that some mistakes had been made."

He said he was confident tensions can be "put in a proper perspective" if the people of Israel and Turkey try and understand each other.

"I think it is entirely possible that we can move beyond the tensions," he said before a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kerry was in Ankara as part of wider Middle Eastern tour that will also take him to Israel. The U.S. senator visited Sudan, Lebanon and Syria.

Turkey had mediated several rounds of indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria in 2008, but the talks made no significant headway and were suspended following the Israeli military offensive in Gaza the following year.

This program aired on November 9, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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