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John Kerry, US Secretary of State, embarks on first foreign trip

Newly-appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry embarked on his first foreign trip as the nation’s top diplomat today.

Kerry first trip 2013 02 24Enlarge
John Kerry boards an airplane at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland at the start of his Feb. 24 to March 6 trip to Europe and the Middle East. (US State Department/Courtesy)

Newly-appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry embarked on his first foreign trip as the nation’s top diplomat today, the Guardian reported.

Kerry is characterizing the 11-day trip as “a listening tour,” State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, according to CNN.

First stop is London, where he is planning on discussing a variety of issues with British leaders, including the Falkland Islands, which are currently claimed by both the UK and Argentina, the Guardian reported.

Then he jets to Berlin – a city in which he lived as a child – where he will make several public appearances, including participating in a conversation with young Germans on the state of European-American relations, the State Department said.

Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha round out his itinerary, the Guardian reported.

Kerry has said that discussing ways to improve the situation in Syria will be a focus of his trip, BBC News reported. While in Berlin, he’ll meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

According to BBC News:

The US has sought Russia's backing to convince the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he is isolated internationally.

He’d hoped to hold talks with the leadership of the Syrian Opposition Coalition at an international meeting in Rome, but the group said it was boycotting the meeting to protest a lack of action on Syrian government attacks against Aleppo, CNN reported.

"The first trips by American secretaries of state are watched very closely,” Nicholas Burns, a former under-secretary of state for political affairs, told CNN. “There is a lot of symbolism attached to them. People look for clues as to which region is most important to the United States."

Four years ago, Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, traveled to Asia first, CNN noted.
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130224/john-kerry-us-secretary-state-embarks-first-fore