Kerry Plans Talks in Europe on Topics From Iran to Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry is going to Europe next week to talk with allies, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, about Iran, Syria and Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Kerry is scheduled to meet in Paris with the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said today. Kerry had postponed a meeting with the Saudi diplomat earlier this month when talks with Afghan leaders ran longer than planned.

The Saudis have signaled concern the U.S. won’t be tough enough in negotiations aimed at preventing Iran from being able to make nuclear weapons and unhappiness with the U.S. decision to back away from strikes against Syria, where the kingdom is arming rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

During a three-country swing from Oct. 21-24, Kerry is also to meet in Paris with representatives of Arab League countries about the Israeli-Palestinian talks.

In London, Kerry is due to meet with the Friends of Syria core group, 11 nations supporting efforts to remove Assad, to discuss prospects for a Geneva peace conference that would lead to a political transition in Damascus.

International peace talks known as Geneva II, aimed at ending the more than 2 1/2-year conflict, have been provisionally scheduled for Nov. 23-24, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil told reporters today in Moscow. There was no immediate confirmation of the timing from the U.S. and Russia.

The U.S. and other nations are “working toward” convening a peace conference, Kerry said today in an interview on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” broadcast.

Secular Syria

“Not that we know what the outcome is, but we know that the goal is the implementation of the agreement reached a year ago which says you have to have a transition government arrived at by mutual consent,” he said. “Now I believe that if you could pull together a negotiated settlement by which the Syrian people choose the future of Syria, then you can ultimately isolate the extremists and hold together a secular Syria.”

The Syria conflict and international talks to prevent Iran from being able to produce nuclear weapons will also be on the agenda when Kerry meets with Netanyahu in Rome.

Netanyahu is scheduled to be in the Italian capital to meet with Pope Francis, who met today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas invited the Pontiff to visit the Middle East.

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