From Davos to Laos, another world tour for John Kerry

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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry sets off on another tour around the world next week that will take him to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

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The State Department, which released Kerry’s schedule late Friday, said the top US diplomat will travel to Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Cambodia and China.

Kerry’s first meeting will be in Zurich on January 20, where he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss the crises in Syria and Ukraine—the two hot points of disagreement between Moscow and Washington.

State Department spokesman John Kirby on Thursday said that the United States has raised concerns about Russia’s tactics in the conflict in Syria, and wants Moscow to pressure its Syrian allies into allowing humanitarian aid to civilians.

Kerry then heads to the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 21-22.

Some 2,500 business and political leaders, including more than 40 heads of state, are expected to attend the gathering in Davos for a series of seminars on key issues facing the global economy.

Headline guests at the Swiss resort town include British Prime Minister David Cameron, US Vice President Joe Biden, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and the newly elected leaders of Canada and Argentina, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Mauricio Macri.

Kerry’s next stop will be Riyadh, where on January 23 he is scheduled to meet senior Saudi Arabian leaders, as well as the top diplomats of the Gulf Cooperation Council states “to discuss bilateral and regional issues,” the State Department said.

The Sunni Arab monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia, have been historic allies of the United States. However they differ strongly with Washington over the nuclear agreement with Iran and the civil war in Syria.

Kerry next travels to Vientiane, where on January 25 he will meet with Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.

Topics will include a “special” summit of the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on February 15-16 in Sunnylands, California.

Kerry will also “affirm support for Laos as this year’s ASEAN chair, and express continued US interest in a close bilateral relationship,” the State Department said.

US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Laos later in the year when Vientiane hosts the annual Asean summit. It will be the first visit by a US president to Laos.

During the Vietnam war, US warplanes dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos from 1964 to 1973 in bombing missions aimed at cutting North Vietnam supply lines through the neighboring country.

An estimated 30 percent of the ordnance failed to detonate.

Relations between Laos and the United States have improved during Obama’s presidency.

Kerry’s next stop: Phnom Penh, where on January 26 he will meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister/Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong.

Topics include the Asean summit as well as “ways to further strengthen bilateral cooperation and the growing bilateral economic relationship.”

AFP

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