Kerry arrives in Turkey, eyes new bid for talks in Mideast

Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Turkey to begin a 10-day trip to Europe and Asia, but found time to pay tribute to US diplomat Anne Smedinghoff who died Saturday.

ISTANBUL — Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Turkey early Sunday on the first leg of a 10-day trip to Europe and Asia that would also seek to unlock long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

But Kerry also took time out to mourn the first death of an American diplomat on the job since last year's Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi, Libya.

Speaking to U.S. consulate workers on a visit to Istanbul, Kerry called the death of Anne Smedinghoff a "grim reminder" of the danger facing American foreign service workers serving overseas. The Illinois resident was one of six Americans killed in an attack Saturday in Afghanistan. She was on a mission to donate books to students in the south of the country.

"It's a grim reminder to all of us... of how important, but also how risky, carrying the future is," Kerry told employees in the Turkish commercial capital.

"Folks who want to kill people, and that's all they want to do, are scared of knowledge. They want to shut the doors and they don't want people to make their choices about the future. For them, it's you do things our way, or we throw acid in your face or we put a bullet in your face," he said.

Kerry described Smedinghoff as "vivacious, smart, capable, chosen often by the ambassador there to be the lead person because of her capacity."

She aided Kerry when he visited the country two weeks ago, serving as his control officer, an honor often bestowed on up-and-coming members of the U.S. foreign service.

"There are no words for anyone to describe the extraordinary harsh contradiction for a young 25-year-old woman, with all of her future ahead of her, believing in the possibilities of diplomacy to improve people's lives, making a difference, having an impact" to be killed, Kerry said.

While in Turkey, Kerry is expected to encourage Turkish leaders to continue improving ties with Israel. The two countries were once allies, but relations spiraled downward after Israel's 2010 raid on a Turkish flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip. Eight Turks and one Turkish-American died.

Related: Kerry likely to move cautiously on Middle East peace

Hopes for rapprochement improved after Obama brokered a telephone conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while President Barack Obama was in Israel last month.

Kerry also will coordinate with Erdogan and other Turkish officials on efforts to halt the violence in neighboring Syria.

Kerry planned to fly from Turkey to Jerusalem for meetings with the presidents and prime ministers of both Israel and the Palestinians. He had accompanied Obama there and made a solo trip to Israel shortly after.

Though expectations are low for any breakthrough on Kerry's trip, his diplomacy represents some of the Obama administration's most sustained efforts for ending more than six decades of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Kerry probably will seek confidence-building measures between the two sides. Negotiators and observers see little chance right now for immediate progress on the big stumbling blocks toward a two-state peace agreement.

Kerry will also visit Britain and then South Korea, China and Japan, where talks will focus on North Korea's nuclear program and escalating threats against the U.S. and its allies.

He is scheduled to return to Washington on April 15.

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