ISTANBUL — The U.S. secretary of state, wrapping up his visit to Istanbul, says an important breakthrough has been achieved among countries supporting the Syrian opposition.
Secretary of State John Kerry described the agreement by 11 countries supporting the Syrian opposition to distribute all military aid and assistance through the leadership of General Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army as a major breakthrough.
"I think that maybe one of the most important single things that was agreed on last night that can make a difference to the situation of the ground," said Kerry.
The agreement hammered out late on Saturday night in Istanbul by members of the "Friends of Syria" group is aimed at undermining the growing power of radical Jihadist groups affiliated with al-Qaida that are fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Secure control over the distribution of military aid is seen as important to help persuade European countries and Washington to ease an arms embargo against the rebel forces. Currently, Western countries are only supplying non-lethal aid to the opposition. Opponents of lifting the embargo have expressed fears that sophisticated weapons could end up in radical hands.
Israeli-Turkish relations were also on Secretary Kerry's agenda Sunday. After a working lunch with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, Kerry pressed Ankara to build on U.S.-initiated rapprochement efforts between Turkey and Israel. The United States brokered a diplomatic breakthrough in March with Israel apologizing to Turkey over the killing of nine Turks during a 2010 Israeli naval raid on a flotilla trying to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Kerry called on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to reconsider a planned visit next month to meet with the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
"We have expressed to the prime minister that we really think it would be better delayed and should not take place at this time," said Kerry.
Kerry expressed concern the visit could harm his efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Erdogan's planned visit to Gaza is opposed by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Kerry said the issue could be raised when the Turkish prime minister visits Washington next month.