Kerry will wait on Israel visit to accompany Obama

WASHINGTON (JTA) – John Kerry will tour the Middle East during his first foreign tour as U.S. secretary of state, but will visit Israel two weeks later with President Obama.

Kerry’s itinerary, announced Tuesday for his Feb. 24-March 6 trip, includes Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In Italy, he will meet members of the Syrian opposition in the country’s civil war.

The former Massachusetts senator said during his confirmation hearings that advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace and stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon were priorities.

His spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said a visit was not appropriate now while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forming his new government. Instead, she said, Kerry will accompany Obama during his trip to Israel next month.

"Given the fact that the government coalition negotiations in Israel are still under way, the secretary will be traveling there with the president when he visits later in the spring in lieu of making his own separate trip in February to Jerusalem and Ramallah," she said.

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