US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday arrived in Ankara for a two-day visit for talks on a range of bilateral and regional policy issues concerning the two NATO allies. US Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone and Turkish Ambassador to the United States Namık Tan welcomed Kerry at Esenboğa Airport in Ankara. This is Kerry's first trip to Turkey since becoming secretary of state, and he will have talks with President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to a statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Thursday, talks between Kerry and Turkish officials in Ankara will address bilateral relations and various regional and global matters. Meanwhile, a senior American official told reporters that Kerry will take Turkey's prime minister to task for "particularly offensive" comments he made this week equating Zionism with a crime against humanity.
Speaking aboard Kerry's plane as he flew from Rome to Ankara on Friday, the official said the Obama administration was profoundly concerned by and disappointed in Erdoğan's remark at a UN conference in Vienna.
Erdoğan told a UN Alliance of Civilizations meeting in Vienna on Wednesday: "Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become necessary to view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity."
The comments, condemned by the head of Europe's main rabbinical group as a "hateful attack" on Jews, are likely to hit efforts to rebuild ties with the Jewish state, undermining a role Washington had hoped Turkey, once Israel's only Muslim ally, could play as a broker in the Middle East.
The White House on Thursday issued a statement condemning them.
Outrage over the remarks threatens to overshadow Kerry's visit to NATO ally Turkey on his first official overseas trip as secretary of state. He has spent much of his time at the first three stops focusing on the conflict in Syria.