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Kerry, Lavrov to visit Turkey for talks

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to pay a visit to Turkey over the weekend for the second time after taking office to discuss the latest developments in the region.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will also visit Turkey later this month for talks, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday.

Kerry will visit Turkey on Sunday, and his talks will focus on a wide range of issues including the Middle East peace process, Iraq and Cyprus, Davutoglu told a joint news conference with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in Ankara. He said Lavrov's visit is scheduled for April 17.

A senior Turkish diplomat who spoke to Today's Zaman on condition of anonymity stated that Kerry's visit to Turkey was fixed during a phone conversation between Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Kerry last week. “The work on the schedule of the visit is still ongoing. It is definite that the visit will take place over the weekend, but the day is not clear yet. Most probably it will take place either on Saturday or on Sunday,” said the diplomat.

Kerry is scheduled to meet with Davutoglu during his stay. According to the diplomat, the date and the place of the visit are yet to be confirmed; however, the diplomat added that Kerry is expected to meet with Davutoglu on Sunday in Istanbul.

When asked whether Kerry will stay in Turkey for two days, the diplomat replied that the visit would most probably be for a day.

Kerry is expected to discuss the Middle East peace process, Turkey-Israel relations, the crisis in Syria, political turmoil in Iraq and the Cyprus problem during his meetings.

The same diplomat stated that these were the main topics to be discussed, adding that Afghanistan and the other issues concerning Turkey and the US will also be on the agenda of the meetings. “The specific topics have yet to be determined; however, Turkey's relations with Israel will be discussed within the scope of the Middle East peace process. The process of normalization will be a part of the discussions,” said the diplomat.

US President Barack Obama brokered a tentative reconciliation between Turkey and Israel during a trip to Israel a few weeks ago. In order to end a major crisis in ties between the two former allies, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month offered an apology to Turkey for the 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara, which was heading to the blockaded Gaza Strip carrying humanitarian aid, that resulted in the deaths of eight Turks and a Turkish-American.

Kerry is also expected to visit Israel and Palestine after his visit to Turkey.

Today's Zaman also contacted to the US Embassy in Ankara; however, embassy officials declined to comment on Kerry's visit, stating that the planning of such visits was done by Washington.

During his first visit in March, Kerry met with top Turkish officials, including Davutoglu, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, to discuss cooperation and the coordination of efforts aiming to find a viable political solution to the two-year-long Syrian conflict, which the UN says has claimed nearly 70,000 lives.

Washington regards Turkey, which shares a 900 kilometer (560 mile) border with Syria, as a pivotal player in backing the Syrian opposition and planning for an era after embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Kerry's visit comes ahead of a planned visit by the Turkish prime minister to Washington next month. According to Turkish officials, Erdogan's long-awaited visit to Washington to meet with US President Barack Obama for talks on several issues concerning the region will take place on May 16.

The Syrian civil war, which has entered its third year, is expected to be the main topic of discussion during Erdogan's visit to the White House. Erdogan is also expected to discuss a variety of topics, including the ongoing settlement process to resolve the Kurdish conflict in Turkey, Turkey's relations with the Iraqi government and the Turkish-Israeli normalization process.

Turkish-US ties have improved since Obama took office with strong cooperation in order to address regional and global challenges.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/asianet/130404/kerry-lavrov-visit-turkey-talks