Clinton to visit Egypt, Israel

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a foreign tour will meet the Israeli and Palestinian leaders as well as officials of the new Egyptian government.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday announced an extensive July 5-16 itinerary for Clinton that will include stops in France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel.

The Paris stop principally will address Western support for the Syrian opposition in the face of an Assad regime crackdown that has cost about 15,000 lives so far, but also will include a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "to discuss both parties’ efforts to pursue a dialogue and build on President Abbas’ exchange of letters with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

After her swing through the Far East, Clinton will arrive July 14 in Egypt to meet officials of the government headed by Mohamed Morsi, the newly elected Egyptian president. It was not clear from the statement whether she would be meeting with Morsi.

The Obama and Netanyahu governments have sent out feelers to Morsi, who was backed by the Islamist party Muslim Brotherhood, to assess his support for upholding the 33-year-old Israeli-Egyptian peace.

Clinton will end her trip on July 16 and 17 in Israel "to discuss peace efforts and a range of regional and bilateral issues of mutual concern."

In addition to enocuraging the Palestinians and Israelis to resume talks suspended since 2010, the Obama administration has been consulting closely with the Netanyahu government over how best to isolate Iran and keep it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu has expressed impatience with talks that the Obama administration has led with Iran and is skeptical that newly enhanced sanctions will work. The Obama administration wants to exhaust all diplomatic and economic options before deciding on a military strike.

The announcement of Clinton’s visit comes just after news earlier this week that Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, would visit Israel this summer. Dates for Romney’s visit have not been announced.

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