ISTANBUL - Secretary of State John Kerry has met with the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians in Turkey.
The meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was part of Kerry's 24-hour visit to Istanbul aimed at improving ties between Turkey and Israel and pushing ahead with Mideast peace efforts.
Kerry praised the Orthodox patriarch as "a voice for interfaith understanding" and noted that Bartholomew had attended the investiture of Pope Francis and had met with the new pope at the Vatican.
Kerry said he considered it a "great, great privilege" to meet with Bartholomew, who he said has consistently talked about protecting the religious rights of minorities.
Christians are a tiny minority who face legal restrictions in predominantly Muslim Turkey.
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