Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man Barack Obama installed as Secretary of State, the former Senator from Massachusetts and onetime Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry:
QUESTION:Â Hi, Mr. Secretary. Thanks for this opportunity. You talked about the importance of a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel, and I wanted to ask you about the operational benefits of that â?? when we will see them. And if you could also comment on reports in the SundayÂ TimesÂ that Israel is discussing with Turkey placing a base outside of Ankara to give them the capability to reach Iran if need be, if you could comment or confirm. Thanks.
SECRETARY KERRY:Â Well, Iâ??m not going to comment on the latter, no. Number one, I donâ??t know enough about it to comment beyond public accounts; and number two, I donâ??t think itâ??s appropriate for me to comment on their as-yet-unannounced or perhaps discussed or not discussed initiatives. So Iâ??m not going to comment on that.
With respect to the importance of these steps and where theyâ??re going â?? I think thatâ??s your question â?? Turkey â?? well, tomorrow thereâ??s a meeting and they have an ability to sort of take the next step or lay the groundwork to take the next step. Prime Minister Erdogan is coming to visit Washington in May, in the middle of May. That will be an important next step in this ongoing dialogue. We would like to see us get to a point where we are moving on improving the situation in Gaza, which was part of the agreement that weâ??re going to try to make sure the goods are moving and life on the ground can improve, which we would like to see happen â?? all of us, Israel included â?? and where we are also completing the task of moving to full diplomatic relations between the countries, which would be beneficial to everybody.
I think Turkey is working in very good faith to get there. I know itâ??s an emotional issue with some people. I particularly say to the families of people who were lost in the incident we understand these tragedies completely and we sympathize with them. And nobody â?? I mean, I have just been through the week of Boston and I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence and something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you. It affects a community, it affects a country. Weâ??re very sensitive to that.
But going forward, we have to find the best way to bring people together to reduce tensions and undo the stereotypes that divide people and try to make peace. If we can find a way to rebuild Germany after a war and make peace and see Germany today be an extraordinary contributor to the economy and dialogue of the world, I hope we can move even in this part of the world to break down barriers that people think can never be broke down. And Turkey can play a key role in helping us to do that. It requires two, the two parties to work together in good faith to do it. And I hope in the next few days that thatâ??s exactly what will take place.
He’s referring to the deaths aboard theÂ Mavi Marmara,Â which in 2010 was part of a flotilla that tried to run the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip. Â When the ship refused all instructions to change course, Israeli Defense Force troops boarded it, and were attacked by the crew with pipes and chains. Â That’s a rather different scenario from innocent people watching the Boston Marathon, to say nothing of the child who was murdered while trying to give his father a post-race hug.
The Israeli government formally apologized to Turkey for errors made during the conduct of the raid, as part of an effort to rebuild relations between the two countries. Â For Kerry to build this into a moral equivalence between the victims in Boston and the crew of theÂ Mavi Marmara is, at the very least, profoundly insensitive. Â He probably meant it as a clumsy effort to gain sympathy from his audience – he was speaking in Istanbul – but that doesn’t make his words rest any more easily in American ears.
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