New US Secretary of State to visit Europe, Mideast on first trip

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit nine countries in Europe and the Middle East starting on Sunday as he undertakes his first foreign trip, the State Department said on Tuesday.

Mr Kerry will visit Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar through March 6, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

She said the former senator's trip was partly a "listening tour," although in Rome he will meet with Syrian opposition leaders and look at potential further US efforts to end the bloodshed in that country.

The newly sworn in US secretary of state will also discuss Syria with regional players including Turkey, Egypt and Qatar, she said.

Mr Kerry is not visiting Israel or the Palestinian territories. Ms Nuland noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was still forming a government and said Mr Kerry would join President Barack Obama on an upcoming visit to the Jewish state.