Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said he would go ahead with a scheduled trip to the Gaza Strip in May despite U.S. calls to delay the visit.
“There is no question of delaying this trip,” Erdogan said on Turkish television.
Washington had urged Erdogan to postpone visiting the impoverished Palestinian territory, saying it would be a “distraction” from U.S. efforts to revive the moribund Middle East peace process.
Erdogan stressed the exact date for his Gaza visit would be set after he visits U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on May 16.
During a trip to Istanbul over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the trip would be “better delayed”, urging Erdogan to wait for the “right circumstances”.
“It was our feeling in a constructive way that we thought that the timing of it is really critical with respect to the peace process that we’re trying to get off the ground,” emphasised Kerry.
Erdogan hit back at Kerry’s comments in no uncertain terms, saying: “We wish he had not said that.”
On Monday, Ankara expressed its dismay with Kerry’s comments.
Kerry’s statement “is not correct diplomatically,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters.
“It is up to our government to decide where our prime minister or a Turkish official will go and when.”
Turkey’s Erdogan says will go to Gaza despite U.S. call to delay trip