Kerry to discuss Syria on Europe trip, meet Abbas

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 05, 2013 2:36 PM
Kerry to discuss Syria on Europe trip, meet Abbas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss Syria, Egypt and Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with European officials on a weekend trip to Vilnius, Paris and London, where he will see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department said on Thursday.

Kerry's trip comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to persuade the U.S. Congress to authorize a limited military strike against Syria for its alleged use of sarin gas against its own people on August 21.

Kerry plans to leave on Friday for the capital of Lithuania, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union and is hosting a meeting of European Union foreign ministers with whom the U.S. secretary of state will meet on Saturday.

Kerry and the ministers plan to "discuss the Middle East, including Syria, Egypt, and the ongoing direct, final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Later Saturday Kerry goes to Paris to meet senior French government officials and, on Sunday, to see representatives of the Arab League "follow-on" committee that is tracking efforts to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

While Psaki said the purpose of the Sunday meeting was for Kerry to provide an update on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year hiatus, she said there was "no doubt" Syria would be discussed.

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Then Kerry goes to London, where on Monday he will see British officials and meet Abbas, the Palestinian leader. A U.S. official said Kerry would also meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "in the near future" but gave no details.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Arshad Mohammed; editing by Jackie Frank)