US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will begin a whirlwind tour of the Middle East on Sunday, traveling through Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait over five days.
The trip will focus on the ongoing crisis in Syria and collaboration on counter-terrorism efforts, official said.
Tillerson will tout a major new defense memorandum of understanding with Jordan alongside King Abdullah II, discuss the status of forces in northern Syria with Turkish leadership, continue discussions with senior Egyptian officials on the Middle East peace process, attend a conference on the reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait City, and make a rare stop in Beirut – the first visit of a US secretary of state there since 2014.
Briefing the press on the secretary’s upcoming travel, senior State Department officials said that Tillerson expects to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue with most of his hosts in some capacity.
They did not attribute any significance to his decision not to stop in Israel this time around.
“I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that there’s no Israel stop,” one senior official told the reporters. “These are always very complicated itineraries to pull together. The secretary meets relatively frequently with Israeli officials when they’re in town and stays abreast of the issues. So I wouldn’t reach any conclusions about the fact that there’s no Israel stop on this particular trip.”