Kerry Returns to Middle East to Discuss Peace Process, Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry headed back to the Middle East today for the third time in less than a month in an effort to break a deadlock in the peace process and discuss the two-year crisis in Syria.

The departure of the top U.S. diplomat was delayed by three hours because of a fault with his plane door that forced a switch of aircraft. His first stop was scheduled to be Istanbul, where he was due to meet on Sunday, April 7, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for discussions about relations with Israel and the civil war in Syria, which has killed more than 70,000 people.

Kerry will be building on President Barack Obama’s effort to help rebuild relations between Israel, America’s closest Mideast ally, and Turkey, an important NATO partner.

During Obama’s three-day visit to Israel last month, the U.S. leader and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone on March 22 with Erdogan about the incident that damaged relations between the two nations. Netanyahu apologized to Turkey for the 2010 deaths of nine Turks taking part in an aid flotilla to Gaza that was intercepted by Israeli security forces.

Kerry will stay in Turkey less than 24 hours before flying to Israel. In Jerusalem and Ramallah, Kerry will push to bring Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas closer toward direct talks.

In a nine-day trip that will end in Asia, Kerry will also attend a meeting with the Group of Eight foreign ministers in London before travelling to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo. He is scheduled to return to Washington on April 15.