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Kerry heading back to Middle East, visiting Africa

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Amid moves to end the Syrian war and kick-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling back to the Middle East next week, a top US official said Friday.

The new top US diplomat will also make his first trip to Africa since replacing Hillary Clinton in early February.

Kerry will first visit Oman for talks with Omani officials on Tuesday, before then heading to Jordan, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

In Amman on Wednesday "he will meet with key international partners to further explore ways that the international community can work towards bringing together both sides of the conflict" in Syria, she added.

Jordan has announced it will host a meeting of the "Friends of Syria" group bringing together foreign ministers from some 11 countries as the international community gropes for a negotiated political transition in the country.

In line with his "quiet strategy" to try to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to talks stalled since late 2010, Kerry will then make his fourth trip to the Jewish state since coming to office in February.

He will meet Israeli leaders on Thursday, and also hold talks in Ramallah, on the West Bank, where he will meet with the Palestinian leadership.

It is a measure of the renewed US commitment to revitalize the peace process, that in the past three months Kerry will have visited Israel the same number of times as Clinton did during the whole of her four-year tenure.

"We remain committed to working with the parties to achieve a lasting peace through direct negotiations," Psaki said in a statement.

From Israel, the US diplomat will fly to Addis Ababa on Friday to take part in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Organization of African Unity and meet African leaders.

Following the weekend events, Kerry will return to Jordan to take part in a meeting of the World Economic Forum, before then flying back to Washington on Monday.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130517/kerry-heading-back-middle-east-visiting-africa