US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will come to Israel on July 16 for her first visit in almost two years, the State Department announced Thursday.

Her trip, the last leg of an eight-country swing that will also take her to Egypt, will come some two weeks before presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is expected in the country for a brief visit. Clinton was last here in September 2010.

Clinton, who left Washington on Thursday, is scheduled to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in France on Friday. The State Department said this meeting was part of “her ongoing consultations with senior Palestinian and Israeli leaders,” and that she would “discuss both parties efforts to pursue a dialogue and build on President Abbas’s exchange of letters with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.”

In Israel on July 16-17, the statement said, she will meet with Israeli leaders “to discuss peace efforts and a range of regional and bilateral issues of mutual concern.”

Abbas is also scheduled to meet in Paris with new French President François Hollande.

One Israeli government official quipped that while it was “very good” that Abbas was going to Paris to meet international leaders, “it would be more conducive to peace if he were to meet with Israeli leaders.”

“He does not need to make peace with France, but rather with Israel,” the official added.

Abbas has said that he will not meet Netanyahu until Israel freezes settlement construction, agrees to negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines, and releases a number of Palestinian prisoners. Netanyahu has said he will meet Abbas without any preconditions.

Clinton, according to the State Department announcement, will attend in Paris the third meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People – a group of western and Arab countries trying to end the crisis in Syria – and “consult with colleagues on steps to increase pressure on the Assad regime and to support UN-Arab League special envoy [Kofi] Annan’s efforts to end the violence and facilitate a political transition to a post- Assad Syria.”

Clinton will come to Israel from Egypt, where she will be the highest ranking US official to visit since the election of President Mohamed Mursi last week. The purpose of her visit is to “express the United States’ support for Egypt’s democratic transition and economic development.”

During her two-day visit she will meet with senior government officials, civil society, and business leaders, and inaugurate the US Consulate in Alexandria.

In between her stops to France, Egypt and Israel, Clinton will also travel to Tokyo to attend a conference on Afghanistan, and then on to Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

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