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Israel may rank high on Kerry's agenda

Jan. 25, 2013 at 10:33 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- One of John Kerry's first trips, should he be approved as secretary of state, will be to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Israeli officials say.

If the plan is confirmed, it would indicate President Obama's desire to relaunch peace talks in the region that have been on hold since 2010, Haaretz newspaper reported Thursday.

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton largely focused her diplomatic attentions on the Far East, rather than the Middle East, after she was sworn in four years ago, The Hill said.

Kerry, a five-term senator, addressed the need to spark resumption of the talks during his confirmation hearing Thursday.

"We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he chairs.

Should efforts fail, "the possibility of a two-state solution could shut on everybody," he said.

He added both he and Obama prefer a diplomatic resolution to the "challenge" of Iran, but that "no one should mistake our resolve to reduce the nuclear threat."

Addressing the conflict in Syria, Kerry said President Bashar Assad's involvement in the killing of his own people is "reprehensible" and said the Syrian leader has "not long for remaining as the head of state in Syria."

Kerry had pushed for the United States to re-establish relations with the Syrian president before the start of the civil war, al-Jazeera reported Friday.

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