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What you need to know about John Kerry's 7-country tour

At the top of the agenda are two intractable foreign policy challenges: the war in Syria and NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry waves as he boards his plane on June 21, 2013 at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. (Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images)

Secretary of State John Kerry began a two-week trip through seven countries on Friday.

At the top of the agenda are two intractable foreign policy challenges: the war in Syria and NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Here, we survey Kerry's stops, and the challenges he faces at each. 

Qatar

Kerry arrives Saturday in Doha, Qatar for a meeting with the so-called 'Friends of Syria' to discuss the fate of the embattled nation. The group consists of 11 other foreign ministers that oppose the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

They will discuss the United States' recent decision to arm the Syrian rebels – some members believe that the move may be too little, too late to stop the Assad government's forces. 

Kerry will also try to build momentum for the so-called Geneva 2 peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition. With recent rebel defeats and with the Syrian opposition still on the fence, the talks may not happen as planned.

He is arriving ahead of negotiations between the US and the Taliban over the future of Afghanistan. Kerry will not personally meet with Taliban officials, but other US representatives will.

It will be the first meeting between American officials and the militant group in 18 months, and comes on the heels of diplomatic spat over the Taliban's instating of political offices in Doha, which spurred Afghanistan to cancel their scheduled talks with the US. 

India

The Secretary of State will visit New Delhi on June 23, where he will chair the fourth annual US-India Strategic Dialogue, as well as meet with the country's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In a video message before the visit, Kerry said “The United States not only welcomes India as a rising power; we fervently support it."

“That’s why President Obama and I support India’s inclusion as a member, a permanent member, of a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council," he added. 

The world's largest democracy, India is often seen as a counterweight to a rising China, and the US has worked hard in recent years to strengthen ties with the South Asian nation.

Kerry will also address Indian-Pakistani relations, particularly in light of the recent election of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has signaled he wants more bilateral ties with India.

Saudi Arabia/Kuwait

In Jeddah on June 25, Kerry will meet with with senior Saudi officials to discuss "a range of bilateral and regional issues." Saudi Arabia has been a key supporter of the largely Sunni Syrian rebels and, along with Qatar, has sent aid and weapons to help topple Assad.

The State Department has said that Kerry will also discuss the worry that extremists, such as Al Qaeda affiliates, are using this time to enter Syria.

Kerry will be in Kuwait on June 26 to meet with senior Kuwaiti officials. Kuwait has also been a staunch enemy of Assad since the uprising over two years ago, but — unlike other Gulf states — has refused to send military aid to rebels. It is believed that young Kuwaitis have been joining the rebel ranks to fight the Syrian government. 

Israel/Jordan

This will be Kerry's fifth visit to the region in the last several months, in an effort to help restart Israel-Palestinian peace talks, which have been on hold for more than three years.

Earlier in the month, Kerry told the American Jewish Committee in Washington that time was running out for the peace process in the region. 

"Let’s be clear: If we do not succeed now, and I know I’m raising the stakes, we may not get another chance," he said.

Skeptical Israelis and Palestinians are likely to raise eyebrows at the US overtures for Middle East peace: the latter still trying to bridge the gaps between its divided leadership, and the former possessing a hardline, right-wing government.

“The real problem here is the absence of ownership,” Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to several secretaries of state and now a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, told the Jerusalem Post.

“I don’t understand how Kerry can get around that. Rarely have I seen a secretary of state who seems so sure of himself," he added. 

Kerry will also likely discuss the recent election of Hassan Rouhani as the president of Iran. Rouhani, who is seen as a moderate cleric, has divided Israelis, with some seeing his election as a sign of hope, and others skeptical that Iran's quest for nuclear weapons will change.

Brunei

The Secretary of State's final stop in the Kingdom of Brunei will include a meeting with the Sultan and several regional conferences relating to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum and the Third East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130621/what-you-need-know-about-john-kerrys-7-country-t