Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided to postpone his much-publicized visit to Gaza, planned for this month.
The Turkish leader reportedly changed his scheduled at the request of the U.S. President Barack Obama, who pressured Erdogan to stay out of the region for the time being.
“I imagine the visit will take place following my meeting with President Obama in Washington next month,” Erdogan told reporters.
The U.S. government politely warned the Turkish prime minister two weeks ago against visiting Gaza, with a statement noting the Obama administration’s “opposition to engagement with Hamas.”
State Department acting deputy spokesperson Patrick Ventrell underscored in a briefing at the time that Washington’s stand on Gaza’s terrorist rulers has “not changed.”
The statement was issued in response to an announcement by Erdogan that he intended to visit Gaza, Judea and Samaria as early as April as part of his effort to “help the process” of lifting Israel’s blockade of Gaza – one of three conditions he set for the restoration of diplomatic ties between his country and Israel.
The statements follow a formal apology to Erdogan by Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the deaths of nine armed men who attacked Israeli soldiers as they boarded the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara vessel in May 2010 – the primary condition for restoration of ties.
The ship was one of six illegally attempting to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza, and the soldiers were boarding to take control of the vessel after the captain ignored repeated requests to change course and head into Ashdod port to inspect its cargo.
The ensuing clash left nine dead – eight Turkish nationals and one U.S. citizen – as well as a number of wounded, several seriously, including a number of Israeli soldiers, some of who were held hostage until their comrades found them and set them free.
An Israeli delegation has meanwhile postponed its planned to visit Turkey for talks over compensation to the families of the attackers killed during clashes on the Mavi Marmara during its illegal attempt to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza in 2010.
The move comes in the wake of a decision by the families to reject the offer of compensation in favor of moving ahead with a court case against four ex-IDF chiefs who were leading Israel’s military at the time of the incident.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters Monday in Ankara the delegation has been rescheduled to arrive on April 21.