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John Kerry in London on First Official Trip

Kerry lands in London to start his first official trip in Europe and the Middle East. Israel will wait until Obama's visit.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/25/2013, 5:45 AM

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry en route to London
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry en route to London
Reuters

New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in London on Sunday to start his first official trip, a marathon get-acquainted tour of close allies in Europe and the Middle East.

AFP reported that Kerry will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday before visiting Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

He is expected to address issues including Syria, Mali and North Korea, the report said.

The State Department explained last week that Kerry will be skipping Israel this time in order to give Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu an opportunity to form a new government.

Instead of visiting this time around, Kerry will accompany President Barack Obama when he makes his first visit as President to Israel and PA-controlled territories next month.

Kerry's decision to make his first trip to Europe, unlike predecessor Hillary Clinton who chose to tour countries in Asia and the Pacific, sends a strong signal to America's closest European partners, said a senior State Department official.

"The Secretary is very pleased to be able to do this first foreign trip with these key European partners," stressed the official, on board the aircraft carrying Kerry's delegation to London, according to AFP.

"I think it's a real reflection on the degree to which we coordinate our global cooperation with these key partners," he added.

After talks with Cameron, the former presidential candidate will meet with Hague and hold his first news conference of the tour before leaving for Berlin late Monday.

The burning issue of Syria will crop up throughout Kerry's trip, and a senior U.S. administration official travelling with the secretary on Sunday urged the opposition not to boycott international talks due to be held in Rome on Thursday.

"We are stressing... that they (the opposition) have an opportunity in Rome, to see the countries that have been their greatest supporters and to present to all of us how they see the situation on the ground in security, humanitarian, political and economic terms," said the official.

"This meeting is also an opportunity for them to meet our new secretary of state and to speak directly to him," he added.

Kerry arrives in Paris on Wednesday for talks with French President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The issues of Mali -- where the Americans are providing logistical support to French forces -- Iran, Syria and North Korea will be on the agenda, according to officials of both countries.