Next week, John Kerry the U.S. Secretary of State will visit the Middle East. Upon his arrival, he will face a new set of political challenges. The transition in Egypt and the crisis in Syria top the agenda for the Secretary and will be a test for him starting out his term as the new Secretary of State.
Kerry has veered of the course taken by Hillary Clinton, his predecessor. Her initial trip and much of her legacy was in charting new waters and America’s influence throughout Asia. However, that might be ending with Kerry, who since taking office has been more interested in the Middle East. His first calls were to leaders in the region and his first overseas trip will take him through Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, after meeting with some allied in Europe.
Kerry, said insiders, is drafting a new proposal for Syria including a negotiated settlement to end the bloody civil war. The settlement would include the exit of Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian President. The plan will be discussed by Kerry with the leaders of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey; all are influential players with Assad’s opposition.
On Tuesday, Kerry will also meet with Sergei Lavrov, his counterpart from Russia, whose country maintains strong ties with Assad and his regime. Kerry will head to Rome, where he meets Moaz Khatib, the Syrian National Coalition leader.
Last Sunday, in his half-hour conversation with Lavrov on the phone, Kerry expressed more urgency in ending bloodshed and preventing any further deterioration of Syria’s state institutions.
Kerry’s stop in Egypt will be key, as the transition from the Mubarak regime to current President Mohamed Morsi has not been smooth, with relations between the leader of Egypt and President Barack Obama having become more divided.