Officials: Secretary of State John Kerry to travel to Mideast this weekend

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to Turkey and Israel this weekend to build on the two nations' efforts to repair ties, U.S. and Turkish officials said Wednesday.

Kerry had planned to depart next week for meetings in London and then South Korea, China and Japan.

But he has moved up his departure to Saturday to build on the rapprochement that President Barack Obama brokered between Turkey and Israel during his visit to the region two weeks ago, the officials said.

Kerry will also discuss regional concerns, including Syria and the Mideast peace process.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the trip, which has not been announced.

Turkey and Israel were once strong allies, but relations have been badly strained since Israel's 2010 raid on a Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza that left eight Turks and one Turkish-American dead.

Last month, Obama helped broker a call from Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which Netanyahu apologized for the botched raid.

Turkey had demanded an apology as a condition for restoring ties. Netanyahu had until then refused to apologize, saying Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.

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