WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Egypt this month for talks with the country's a new Islamist president, and will follow that with a stop in Israel to discuss Middle East peace efforts, the State Department said on Thursday.
Clinton's Mideast stops come at the end of a marathon trip that will start off in Paris on Friday with a meeting of the "Friends of Syria" group of Western and Arab nations that have sought unsuccessfully to curb the worsening Syrian crisis.
In Paris, Clinton will also meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the Middle East peace process, which US officials have been trying to revive following the breakdown in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in late 2010.
She will then fly on to Tokyo for a conference on Afghanistan, followed by stops in Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as part of Washington's broader effort to bolster ties with Asia as China's power grows in the region.
Clinton will head to Cairo on July 14, becoming the most senior US official to visit Egypt since Mohamed Mursi was sworn in as president on June 30, ending six decades of rule by former military men.
The State Department said Clinton's two-day visit was intended "to express the United States' support for Egypt's democratic transition and economic development." She is to meet senior government officials as well as civil society and business leaders and inaugurate the new US consulate in Alexandria.
US officials said Clinton was expected to meet Mursi during the trip, giving her a chance to make a personal assessment of the man Egyptians elected as their leader after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.
The United States has traditionally had close ties with Egypt's military, and Washington sought to use this leverage to press the country's ruling military council to make good on pledges to hand over power to a democratically-elected leader.
But Washington has also long been leery of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood which Mursi represents, and has sought to ensure that his government will pursue a moderate course and uphold international agreements including Egypt's 33-year-old peace treaty with Israel.
Clinton will wind up the trip in Israel on July 16-17, where she is to discuss the Middle East peace effort amid tentative signs that Israeli and Palestinian leaders are open to resuming some form of dialogue after months of stalemate.