Rights report calls out Syria, Russia; Ukraine protesters praised
February 27th, 2014
03:35 PM ET

Rights report calls out Syria, Russia; Ukraine protesters praised

By Laura Koran

Syria carried out "egregious human rights violations" last year, according to a State Department assessment released on Thursday that also singled out abuses in Russia and the Ukraine.

The 2013 Human Rights Report, based on assessments from America's embassies abroad, reserved its strongest language for the Syrian government, which allegedly gassed its own people last August in an atrocity linked to the ongoing civil war.

"Hundreds were murdered in the dead of night when a disaster occurred at the hands of a dictator, who decided to infect the air of Damascus with poisonous gas," Secretary of State John Kerry said in presenting the report.

"And many more have been, unfortunately, confined to die under a barrage of barrel bombs, scud missiles, artillery and other conventional weapons," he said.
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Filed under: China • Kerry • State Department • Syria • Ukraine
U.S. defends John Kerry from criticism by Israel's defense minister
January 14th, 2014
04:14 PM ET

U.S. defends John Kerry from criticism by Israel's defense minister

By Steve Almasy

U.S. officials reacted angrily to comments attributed to Israel's defense minister criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians.

The derisive remarks appeared in a popular daily Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, and reflect Moshe Yaalon's skepticism of the Kerry-led U.S. efforts "both in private conversations in Israel and in the U.S."

"American Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor, cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians," Yaalon said, according to the paper.

The U.S. State Department fired back Tuesday. Spokeswoman Marie Harf said it was shocking that a close ally would question Kerry's motives.

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Filed under: Israel • Kerry
Kerry weighs in on North Korea execution, Bob Levinson in Iran
December 15th, 2013
05:52 PM ET

Kerry weighs in on North Korea execution, Bob Levinson in Iran

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s execution of his uncle was “an ominous sign” of instability and danger, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

Kerry also weighed in on reports about former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran seven years ago. The United States has not stopped efforts to get him released, Kerry told ABC's "This Week."

The secretary of state is on an overseas trip that's taken him to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Vietnam, and will carry him through Manila and Tacloban later this week.

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If Israel strikes Iran, Dempsey says U.S. 'would meet' obligations
November 19th, 2013
12:01 AM ET

If Israel strikes Iran, Dempsey says U.S. 'would meet' obligations

By Dan Merica

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said Monday that if Israel were to strike Iran in an effort to damage the country's nuclear program, the United States would meet "some defined obligations" it has to the Middle East nation.

"I feel like we have a deep obligation to Israel," the military leader said. "That is why we are in constant contact and collaboration with them."

This fall, diplomats from the United States and other interested countries have met to deal with Iran's nuclear program and ways in which advancements could be halted.

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Filed under: Dempsey • Hagel • Iran • Israel • Kerry • Military
European dealmaking on Syria as U.S. tries to build coalition
September 7th, 2013
04:41 PM ET

European dealmaking on Syria as U.S. tries to build coalition

By Elise Labott

You may have been surprised by the about-face by French President Francois Hollande who - after initially stressing the need for urgent action on Syria while insisting there was no need to wait for the United Nations inspectors' report on the August 21 attack - said on Friday that he now wants to wait for their findings.

Then, Saturday in Lithuania after four hours of talks with Secretary of State John Kerry, the European Union foreign ministers issued a statement blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the chemical weapons attack, calling it a "blatant violation of international law, a war crime and a crime against humanity" and calling for a "clear and strong" international response.

But the statement said U.N. inspectors investigating the incident should report their initial findings before any action is taken.

What's going on?

It is all about European politics.

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Filed under: Europe • Kerry • Security Brief • Syria • United Nations
Boston bombing looms large at U.S./Russia meeting
April 22nd, 2013
10:08 PM ET

Boston bombing looms large at U.S./Russia meeting

By Elise Labott

BRUSSELS (CNN) - When Secretary of State John Kerry meets Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of NATO meetings, he will have a full agenda, starting with the crisis in Syria, disarmament talks with Iran and nuclear saber rattling by North Korea.

There also will be the issue of missile defense and ongoing negotiations between Moscow and Washington to make drastic cuts in their respective nuclear arsenals.

But the Chechen roots of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects will loom large.

While Russia could be helpful in tracing possible motivation of the alleged attackers, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as well as any possible connection to terrorist groups, the Obama administration wants to make sure it does not upset an already fragile relationship.
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Filed under: Kerry • Putin • Russia • Terrorism
Kerry distances himself from Clinton backing of arming Syrian rebels
February 8th, 2013
08:30 PM ET

Kerry distances himself from Clinton backing of arming Syrian rebels

By Jill Dougherty

The president's top diplomat said Friday he wasn't looking "backwards" at the White House quashing of a proposal last summer to arm the Syrian rebels, but was instead looking at what the United States will do regarding helping the opposition.

Last summer President Barack Obama's national security team, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Petraeus, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, backed a proposal to provide weapons to Syrian rebels but, U.S. officials told CNN on Thursday, the White House blocked the idea.

That rift was unexpectedly revealed Thursday in testimony on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, asked Panetta and Dempsey: "Did you support the recommendation by Secretary of State - then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-head of CIA General Petraeus that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria? Do you support that?
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Kerry gets started at State, speaks to Middle East leaders
February 3rd, 2013
04:48 PM ET

Kerry gets started at State, speaks to Middle East leaders

By: CNN Political Unit

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with leaders from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, among others, during his first weekend on the job, according to a readout released by the State Department on Sunday.

The former senator from Massachusetts spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the country's recent elections and the Middle East peace process. He also talked to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about Israeli-Palestinian relations and vowed to continue efforts with Congress to send funds to the authority.

The conversations came one day after Kerry spoke with Israeli President Shimon Peres, whom he has known since he was a freshman senator, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a readout on Saturday.

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Filed under: Kerry • Middle East • Secretary of State
Kerry says Iran must come clean on nuclear program
January 25th, 2013
05:25 AM ET

Kerry says Iran must come clean on nuclear program

By Joe Sterling, Jessica Yellin and Holly Yan

Sen. John Kerry, the president's nominee for secretary of state, put America's anxiety over Iran front and center during his confirmation hearing, saying the "questions surrounding Iran's nuclear program" must be resolved.

"The president has made it definitive," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday during what is expected to be an easy confirmation process.

"We will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and I repeat here today, our policy is not containment. It is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance."

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January 24th, 2013
05:10 AM ET

John Kerry faces hearing for secretary of state post, armed with bipartisan support

By Jessica Yellin and Holly Yan

Nine years after his presidential bid ended in defeat, John Kerry's political career might take a major turn Thursday during his hearing to become the next secretary of state.

The longtime senator from Massachusetts could sail to an easy confirmation, as politicians from both parties expressed optimism he would win approval.

"Over these many years, John's earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world. He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job-training," President Barack Obama said when he nominated Kerry last month.

"I think it is fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry, and this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead."

Kerry is noted for having the experience, gravitas and relationship-building skills that could help him succeed Hillary Clinton, the outgoing top U.S. diplomat.

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