Following reports of an upcoming visit of U.S. Secretary of State to Cairo in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram over a week ago, the Department of State officially confirmed on Thursday that Hillary Clinton will indeed visit Cairo, and Israel, this month, as part of an 8-country trip through Asia that she began on Thursday.
Clinton's meeting with new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, will make her the first U.S. senior official to visit Egypt after the presidential elections this year. Clinton visited Egypt in March 2011.
According to a State Department statement, from July 15 to 16, Clinton "will meet with senior government officials, civil society, and business leaders, and inaugurate the U.S. Consulate General in Alexandria. The general purpose of the visit was defined as "expressing the United States support for Egypts democratic transition and economic development."
From Egypt, Clinton will continue to Israel from July 16 - 17, for her first visit in two years. In Israel, she will "discuss peace efforts and a range of regional and bilateral issues of mutual concern." This will be the final stop on her trip. Earlier stops include Japan, where she will attend a conference on Afghanistan, Mongolia, Vietnam, and a historical visit to Laos and Cambodia.
In Israel, Clinton might find herself in an awkward position - her visit precedes that of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and she would probably be urged to make some positive statements on the U.S.-Israel relationship. But on the diplomatic front, with the current rifts in Netanyahu's coalition, it's not clear at all that this government, much praised by her as a possibility to promote peace, will be able to deliver.
The U.S. administration has been trying to navigate its relations with the emerging Egyptian leadership carefully, supporting the general course of the transition as opposed to specific players. When President Obama called to congratulate Morsi on the win, in a rare step, he also called his defeated rival, Ahmed Shafiq.
Since the election results, the administration has been sending positive signals both to the new president, praising his announcements of plans for inclusive government, and commending the army officials for their role in transition, and stressing again and again that the U.S. sees upholding the peace treaty with Israel as part of the future government's international commitments.
On Friday, in one of the first stops of her trip, Clinton will attend the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Paris, where she will consult with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the margins of the forum. Both Russia and China announced they are skipping the forum - a major setback for Clinton, who said in interviews following her meeting with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov that she got an impression that the Kremlin is ready to abandon Assad, and has no strategic interest in supporting his regime.
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