U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Turkey, where he could admonish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for calling Zionism "a crime against humanity."
Kerry was expected to bring up the remark during meetings with Turkish leaders Friday to discuss the crisis in Syria, Turkey's neighbor.
Erdogan, speaking at a U.N. event, said, "As with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it is inevitable that Islamophobia be considered a crime against humanity," the BBC reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the remark "dark and mendacious."
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said characterizing Zionism as a "crime against humanity ... is offensive and wrong."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office said Ban heard Erdogan's speech at a U.N. Alliance of Civilizations Forum in Vienna through an interpreter and called it "unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under the theme of responsible leadership."
Turkish-Israeli relations have been strained since May 2010 when Israeli troops killed nine Turkish activists aboard a flotilla of aid ships trying to break through Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.
Kerry was to meet with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, President Abdullah Gul and Erdogan, although observers said it wasn't clear whether the meetings will help the NATO allies narrow their differences on Syria, with Turkey preferring a more aggressive approach to oust President Bashar Assad than the United States, the Hurriyet Daily News said.
A few days before Kerry's arrival in Turkey, Erdogan said, the United States "has not assumed responsibility yet. What we can discuss about and to what extent?"
Kerry announced during a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Rome Thursday the United States would commit $60 million that would be sent directly to the Syrian rebels, a first. State Department officials said the aid would be used to help local councils and communities in liberated areas in Syria, provide basic goods and services and "fulfill administrative functions including security, sanitation and education services."
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