Kerry kicks off nine-nation visit

Washington, Feb 25: US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday kicked off an 11-day voyage to nine countries in Europe and the Middle East, the State Department said.

Kerry, who took office Feb 1 to succeed Hillary Clinton, will visit Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The conflicts in Mali, Syria and Afghanistan will top Kerry’s agenda, Xinhua cited the State Department as saying.

In London, his first stop, Kerry will meet senior British officials to discuss a range of bilateral and global issues the two allies are closely coordinating, the department said.

In Berlin, he will discuss issues of mutual interest and make a number of public appearances, including an exchange of views with German youth on the state of European-American relations.

Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the German capital over “a wide range” of bilateral and international issues, with focus expected on Syria.

In Paris, Kerry will discuss with senior French officials the ongoing military intervention in Mali spearheaded by the French military.

During his stay in Rome, the US Secretary of State will participate in a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings with European allies to review the “wider transatlantic relationship” and discuss issues of global concern.

Kerry will also participate in multilateral meetings on Syria and meet the leaders of the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

In Turkey’s capital Ankara, he will discuss the “strategic priorities” between the two NATO allies, including the crisis in Syria, regional stability, peace and security as well as counterterrorism cooperation.

In Cairo, he will meet government officials, political leaders, civil society leaders and the business community to encourage “greater political consensus” and moving forward on economic reforms.

He will also meet Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby to consult “on our many shared challenges across the region”, the State Department said.

In Riyadh, Kerry will meet the Saudi leadership and discuss bilateral cooperation on “a broad range of shared concerns”.

He will also participate in a ministerial meeting with counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations.

Kerry’s visit to Abu Dhabi will focus on “continued close coordination” between the two countries on issues of mutual interest.

Syria, Afghanistan and the Middle East peace will top Kerry’s agenda in his final stop in Doha, Qatar, the State Department said.

IANS