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U.S. Secretary of State Kerry to visit Turkey

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd R) attends a meeting of President Barack Obama with African leaders at the White House in Washington
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd R) attends a meeting of President Barack Obama with African leaders at the White House in Washington

ANKARA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Turkey on Sunday as part of a trip to Europe and Asia to consult allies on issues including Syria's civil war, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday.

Washington regards Turkey, which shares a 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria, as a pivotal player in backing the Syrian opposition and planning for an era after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"The U.S. Secretary of State will be in Istanbul on Sunday and we will hold meetings to discuss various issues such as the Middle East peace process and the crisis in Syria," Davutoglu told a news conference.

A month ago, on his first visit to Turkey since taking office, Kerry criticized Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for a comment likening Zionism to crimes against humanity, a spat that cast a shadow over talks between the NATO allies.

But a few weeks later, U.S. President Barack Obama brokered a tentative reconciliation between Turkey and Israel. Israel bowed to a long-standing demand by Ankara, once a close strategic partner, to formally apologies for the killing of nine Turkish citizens in a 2010 naval raid on a supply flotilla bound for Gaza.

The rapprochement between the two U.S. allies could help regional coordination to contain spillover from the Syrian civil war and ease Israel's diplomatic isolation in the Middle East as it faces challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program.

Davutoglu also said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would attend a conference in Turkey on April 17. Russia is an ally of Syria and opposes international efforts to oust Assad.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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