Kerry to attend Middle East peace conference in Paris

Washington, Jan 11 (IANS) US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend a conference on peace in the Middle East to be held this Sunday in Paris, the US Department of State said in a statement.

This would be his last overseas trip as secretary of state, which would include visits to Vietnam, Britain and Switzerland, Efe news reported on Wednesday.

Kerry’s presence at that international event evidences his break with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who fears that the conference would deepen his diplomatic isolation.

The gap with Netanyahu was clear in December 2016, when the US abstained for the first time in decades in a UN Security Council resolution condemning Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.

The move was then reinforced by the speech that Kerry gave days later to justify that vote in the UN.

The current Secretary of State mediated for nine months between 2013 and 2014 in direct peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, but that effort failed.

However, US President-elect Donald Trump has promised a rapprochement with Netanyahu from January 20 onwards when Trump assumes office.

Trump was expected to resume hard-line unconditional support for the Israeli government’s policies.

Kerry’s last foreign trip as secretary of state would begin on Friday, in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he will meet with Vietnamese senior officials to “discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues,” the Department of State said in a statement.

After his trip to Paris, Kerry will travel to London on January 16, to meet with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, and address “the situation in Syria and other global and regional issues”.

Finally, on January 17-18 , Kerry would attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he will be “the featured speaker in a discussion on 21st century diplomacy,” the State Department said.