One of Turkey’s leading media outlets, Hurriyet Daily News, announced that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will come to the United States to meet with President Barack Obama on May 16.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry received the official invitation on Tuesday, April 2.
While the meeting could not have taken place without repair to relations between Turkey and Israel, the primary focus of the visit is expected to be the ongoing civil war in Syria, which has enormous spillover effect on and dangers for both Turkey and Israel. A diplomatic source revealed to Hurriyet that Erdoğan’s visit to Washington “was fixed in a phone conversation on the day Israel apologized to Turkey.”
Most international commentators agree that Turkey is hoping the U.S. will take a lead role in enforcing an end to the violence in Syria. The U.S. administration, however, is reluctant to become directly involved by providing lethal support to opposition forces, fearing weapons falling into the hands of extremists. The U.S. instead prefers a diplomatic approach to ending the current crisis.
In addition to the visit by the Turkish prime minister to the U.S., it was also announced that a series of diplomatic meetings are now scheduled to enable Turkey and Israel to normalize relations. An Israeli diplomatic delegation will travel to Ankara on April 11 to meet with Turkish delegates. Discussions will focus on ensuring that an exchange of ambassadors will take place towards the end of June.
Another diplomacy track for the negotiating teams deals with compensation to be paid by Israel to families of those Turks killed during the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla which was attempting to breach Israel’s legal naval blockade of Gaza in late May, 2010. Eight Turks died after Israelis opened fire when fellow soldiers who had boarded the ship were attacked with iron bars and knives.
The Turkish government’s goal is apparently to get the families of those who died during the blockade flotilla fiasco to agree to accept compensation from Israel in exchange for dropping their lawsuits against Israeli officials. Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the deputy prime minister Bülent Arınç were scheduled to meet with the families late Tuesday.
Although the Turkish Prime Minister has stated that he will soon visit Gaza, no details on that visit have yet been announced.