Syria on Agenda at Every Stop as Biden Embarks on Europe Tour

Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Syrian opposition leaders and make the international response to the rebellion against the regime of Bashar al-Assad a focus of talks during a three-nation European visit that begins tomorrow, advisers said.

Syria will be discussed with “all of the leaders” Biden will meet over the next several days, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said Biden national security adviser Tony Blinken. Biden will press Russia “to put their full weight into a political transition in Syria,” he said.

Biden also will meet on Feb. 2 with Syrian opposition leaders including Moaz al-Khatib and the UN envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, Blinken said. That meeting will take place while Biden attends the Munich Security Conference, the focal point of the trip. He’ll also visit France and the U.K. on the first foreign journey of his second term.

While the future of the European Union and concerns about global economic growth will also be on the agenda for the vice president’s talks, Biden’s trip comes as the U.S. is increasing humanitarian funding for Syrians while resisting calls for lethal assistance for rebels or military intervention.

Fighting between the Assad regime and rebels has displaced millions and led to the deaths of more than 60,000 people.

Unrest in Egypt and U.S. assistance for the French intervention in Mali also will be topics for talks.

“We see increasingly a recognition that we have a common problem that we need to contend with together” Blinken said of discussions among the U.S. and allies about porous borders, ungoverned territory, loose weapons and unstable governments in North Africa and the Middle East and the potential for the spread of extremism and violence.

“This requires a comprehensive approach,” Blinken said. “It also requires a common approach” and Biden wants “to confer with leaders about that.”

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