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Secretary of State Kerry to visit Turkey: official

ANKARA (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Turkey this week as part of a trip to Western Europe and Asia to consult allies on issues including Syria's civil war, a Turkish official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Washington regards Turkey, which shares a 900 km (560-mile) border with Syria, as a pivotal player in backing the Syrian opposition and planning for an era after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Mr Kerry will visit Turkey. The date is not clear yet but possibly it will take place either on Friday or on Saturday," said the official, who declined to be named. The U.S. State Department was not immediately available to comment.

A month ago, on his first visit to Turkey since taking office, Kerry criticized Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for a comment likening Zionism to crimes against humanity, a spat that cast a shadow over talks between the NATO allies.

U.S. President Barack Obama brokered a tentative reconciliation between Turkey and Israel during a trip to Israel a few weeks later. Israel bowed to a long-standing demand by Ankara, once a close strategic partner, to formally apologize for the killing of nine Turkish citizens in a 2010 naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

The rapprochement between the two U.S. allies could help regional coordination to contain spillover from the Syrian civil war and ease Israel's diplomatic isolation in the Middle East as it faces challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Pravin Char)

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