Israel's Livni rules out Turkey role in talks -- for now

Israel's lead peace negotiator Tzipi Livni on Sunday ruled out Turkey taking an immediate role in reviving talks with the Palestinians, shortly before US Secretary of State John Kerry flew in.

Asked if Turkey could play an important role in the peace process -- an idea raised by Kerry at a press conference earlier in the day in Istanbul -- she told public radio: "The idea is interesting, but it could take time."

Livni, who is also justice minister, has been charged with heading up Israel's efforts to renew direct negotiations with the Palestinians which fell apart just weeks after they were launched in September 2010 in a spat over settlement building.

"We will look into the contribution of regional countries," the former foreign minister said.

"Regional leaders are important, every Palestinian leader who wants to negotiate must of course get the support of other countries in the region, but for the moment, we are fully involved in the efforts to bring about a resumption of direct negotiations, which the Americans are helping with," she said.

Earlier on Sunday, while wrapping up a flying visit to Turkey ahead of his arrival in Israel, Kerry said Turkey could play a major role in the Middle East peace process.

"Turkey can be a key -- an important contributor to the process of peace in so many ways," Kerry told reporters, saying Ankara could play a "very central" role in creating a climate for peace within the international community.

"A country as strong and as vibrant, as energised and as transformative as Turkey can have a profound impact by being a partner in this process," he said.

The US secretary of state is Obama's new pointman on the Middle East as part of a renewed US effort to push the sides back to negotiations.

Expectations have been growing that Washington is ready to resume some kind of shuttle diplomacy to rekindle the moribund peace process.

But the State Department has sought to downplay expectations. "I would not expect the secretary to be putting down a plan," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on April 3.