Kerry to Skip Israel on Mideast Trip

US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit nine countries in Europe and the Middle East starting Sunday as he undertakes his first foreign trip as top diplomat, the State Department said Tuesday. However, he will be skipping Israel this time, the State Department said, in order to give Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu an opportunity to form a new government, AFP reported.
Kerry will visit Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar through March 6, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. Nuland said that the former senator’s trip was partly a “listening tour,” although in Rome he will meet with Syrian opposition leaders and look at potential further US efforts to end the bloodshed in that country.
The newly installed US secretary of state will also discuss Syria with regional players including Turkey, Egypt and Qatar, she said.
Kerry is not visiting Israel or Palestinian Authority controlled territories. Nuland noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu was still forming a government and said Kerry would join President Barack Obama on an upcoming visit to the Jewish state.

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