ISTANBUL -- Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Istanbul early Sunday morning to encourage Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to move ahead with his commitment to normalize relations with Israel.
President Obama brokered an agreement between Israel and Turkey to restore their ties during his visit to Jerusalem last month.
Turkey and Israel's diplomatic ties had been frozen since 2010 after nine Turks were killed when the Israeli military intercepted a Turkish ship that was trying to run the blockade on supplies to Gaza. But no sooner was the new agreement announced than Mr. Erodogan boasted that it underscored Turkey's regional clout, and concerns emerged that there could be problems fulfilling the agreement.
Mr. Kerry plans to meet with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Mr. Erdogan, who is scheduled to visit Washington next month for discussions with President Obama.
A State Department official said Mr. Kerry planned to "encourage Turkey to expeditiously implement its agreement with Israel and fully normalize their relationship." Among other steps, the agreement calls for an exchange of Turkish and Israeli ambassadors.
Other issues on Mr. Kerry's agenda in Istanbul concern Turkey's role in continuing to accept Syrians who have fled the civil war in their own country. There are 180,000 Syrians in Turkey, but the United Nations's refugee agency recently criticized Turkey for sending home at least 130 refugees after unrest at a refugee camp. And the United States wants Turkey to keep its borders open to Syrians who are trying to escape the fighting in their country.
Mr. Kerry will also discuss support for the Syrian opposition. The secretary of state announced at a conference in Rome in late February that the United States would provide nonlethal assistance, specifically medical supplies and food rations, to the armed Syrian opposition. That assistance has not yet come through, though it is expected to arrived soon.
Mr. Kerry also plans to take up Turkey's fraught relations with Iraq. To the consternation of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government in Baghdad, Turkey has been discussing the establishment of a direct oil pipeline to the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
After his meetings in Turkey, Mr. Kerry will head to Israel for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.