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Erdogan Says to Visit Gaza in Late May

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday announced plans to visit Gaza at the end of May, possibly after a key trip to Washington which brokered a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel last month.

"God willing, we will be in Gaza at the end of May. We will embrace one another there," Erdogan said through a video link with a Turkish aid center in the tiny Palestinian territory, media reported.

Erdogan, a staunch advocate of the Palestinian cause, earlier said he would visit Gaza in April "to help the process" of lifting an Israeli embargo on Gaza.

That announcement came a day after a breakthrough apology on March 22 from Israel for the deaths of nine Turks during a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which had wrecked ties between the former allies.

Aides pointed to scheduling conflicts for the scrapping of the April visit, but Israeli and Turkish media speculated that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had warned Ankara over the trip's "potentially adverse effects" on the new thaw in bilateral ties facilitated by Washington.

Erdogan plans to visit Washington on May 16.

For full restoration and re-appointment of its ambassador in Israel, Ankara insists that the Jewish state pay compensation for the raid victims and lift its restrictions on Gaza.

Officials from both sides are set to meet on April 22 in Turkey to discuss the terms of such compensation. Turkish officials had also postponed that meeting, originally planned for April 11, citing scheduling conflicts.

In Gaza City, Hamas deputy prime minister Ziyad al-Zaza told reporters that he hoped Erdogan's visit would present "new possibilities for ending the (Israeli) siege" which he said was costing the economy $250 million per month.

He said that Israel had closed Kerem Shalom, Gaza's only commercial crossing, for 16 days in March, and for five consecutive days in April.

"What enters Gaza through those crossing is between 35 to 50 percent of Gaza's needs, whether it is food, cooking gas or construction materials for international institutions, which is not enough to reconstruct Gaza," he said.

A cautious Erdogan also told reporters on Sunday that "Israel does not appear to be keeping its promise," referring to a pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue lifting restrictions on goods if calm prevailed.

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