25/02/13 11:54 CET
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John Kerry has made his debut at 10 Downing Street. He chose London as his first stop on a nine-nation ‘listening’ tour as the new US secretary of state, a move which appears to have flattered the British Foreign Office.
Discussions are expected on the disputed Falkland islands, with both Britain and Argentina laying claim to them.
A referendum is on the cards for next month. The US is keeping its distance in the debate.
After London he will take in other European capitals where he is expected to meet members of the Syrian opposition.
So far the US has offered non-lethal arms to the rebels. Analysts say that Kerry is unlikely to offer new solutions to end the violence which has claimed around 70,000 lives.
Kerry will also visit Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia where the Middle East Peace Process will be top of the agenda.
A trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories has been planned for later in March when he will be joined by the US president himself.
Our UK Correspondent Ali May commented:
“John Kerry’s itinerary may look choc-a-bloc with nine countries in an eleven-day trip, but London as the first business destination for the US Secretary of State will carry the inevitable connotation that the ‘special relationship’ is alive and well. It may also signal that Europe will be more on the agenda compared to the first term of President Obama that seemed to be Asia-centric in its foreign policy. Mr. Kerry, now the US top diplomat, will have to step up to the plate that the charismatic Hillary Clinton has just vacated. The London trip will be filled with Syria talk, as the upcoming referendum in the Falklands will be in the agenda. But Mr Kerry will have other big issues to deal with: as ever the Middle East peace process appears to be – at best – stalled; Iran keeps enriching uranium while its people suffer the economic consequences of the sanctions; extremist Islamism is on the rise in Africa; and the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ countries are struggling. But then, of course, there is the test of the world.”
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