Kerry kicks off busy tour from Britain

Kerry kicks off busy tour from Britain

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Kerry kicks off busy tour from Britain

In this Feb. 14, 2013 file photo, Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the State Department in Washington. Kerry will make his first overseas trip next week to Europe and the Middle East, but is skipping Israel because that country's government isn't fully formed after recent elections. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File

America’s top diplomat John Kerry began his first official trip as secretary of state today, a marathon get-acquainted tour of Washington’s closest allies in Europe and the Middle East.

Kerry will visit the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar from Feb. 24 to March 6.

The first stop will be London, where Kerry will meet with senior British officials, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Feb. 22. Kerry travels on to Berlin where, in addition to meeting Germans, he will encounter his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for a tricky exchange at a time when Moscow and Washington are at loggerheads on many issues.

“Obviously, they know each other well from when Secretary Kerry was Senator Kerry, but it will be their first opportunity to sit down bilaterally as foreign ministers,” Nuland said.

Kerry travels from Germany to Paris, where Nuland said he would meet senior French officials to discuss American assistance for France’s ongoing military operation against militants in Mali. On his next stop, in Rome, Kerry will concentrate on multilateral talks on the crisis in Syria. Kerry will travel to Ankara for meetings with Turkish officials on a range of strategic issues, including Syria.