Kerry at Mideast corner of optimism and skepticism
May 23rd, 2013
12:38 PM ET

Kerry at Mideast corner of optimism and skepticism

By Elise Labott, reporting from Jerusalem

If there is one thing Israelis and Palestinians can agree on, it's that John Kerry doesn't lack enthusiasm.

Arriving in Israel on Thursday on his fourth trip since taking office, the secretary of state seems determined that shuttle diplomacy will be enough to coax Israelis and Palestinians into restarting long-stalled talks.

Kerry has made it clear the Israeli-Palestinian issue will be the centerpiece of his tenure as America's top diplomat and hopes solving it will be his legacy.

He has spent more time on this issue than any other, is in almost daily contact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and speaks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas several times a week.

Kerry aims to soothe Afghan-Pakistan tensions
Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) and Pakistani Army Chief-of-Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, on April 24, 2013 during a break in a meeting in Brussels.
April 24th, 2013
12:15 PM ET

Kerry aims to soothe Afghan-Pakistan tensions

By Elise Labott reporting from Brussels

Secretary of State John Kerry brought together Afghan and Pakistani leaders on Wednesday to help soothe tensions between the two countries and try to breathe life into the reconciliation process with the Taliban.

Keeping expectations low for any immediate progress in the process, Kerry said all sides still have "homework" to do.

"We have agreed that results will tell the story, not statements at press conferences," Kerry told reporters in Brussels before returning to Washington. "We are not going to raise expectations or make any kind of promises that can't be delivered."

Kerry hosted Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani at Truman Hall, the secluded estate of the U.S. Ambassador to NATO outside Brussels.

US-North Korea met last month, nothing came of it
US special envoy for 6 party talks, Clifford Hart
April 9th, 2013
05:50 PM ET

US-North Korea met last month, nothing came of it

By Elise Labott

In the days before North Korea’s latest round of threats and provocations, US and North Korean officials met in New York, although nothing came of the meeting, said a source familiar with what transpired. The source described the meeting as part of regular backchannel exchanges between the countries.

Clifford Hart, the US envoy for six party talks aimed at North Korean denuclearization, met with North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Han Song-ryol  in mid March, according to the source.

Hart repeated the Obama administration’s call for North Korea to avoid provocative actions and urged a return to diplomacy.  Han promised to communicate the message back to Pyongyang, the source said.

The meeting was held as part of the so-called “New York channel,” a backchannel  typically used to communicate and pass messages between Washington and Pyongyang in the absence of normal relations. In February, North Korea used the New York channel to warn the State Department  about its third nuclear test.

The meeting was first reported by the Foreign Policy magazine blog, The Cable.

Kerry to seek diplomatic 'off-ramp' for North Korea
April 7th, 2013
07:14 AM ET

Kerry to seek diplomatic 'off-ramp' for North Korea

By Elise Labott

When he visits Asia later this week, Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss potential diplomatic incentives for North Korea once it stops its bellicose rhetoric and threatening behavior, senior administration officials tell CNN.

Officials warn any resumption of talks with North Korea is premature, and could only come once Pyongyang adheres to its international obligations. But they say Kerry hopes the new emphasis on diplomacy will give the North Koreans a face-saving way to de-escalate the current situation.

"Secretary Kerry agrees that we have to have a robust deterrent because we really don't know what these guys will do," one senior official said. "But he also knows that the North Koreans need a diplomatic off-ramp and that they have to be able to see it."

Kerry left Saturday for the Middle East and then for London before traveling to Seoul, Bejing and Tokyo later next week. FULL POST

April 5th, 2013
07:25 PM ET

North Korea: Hints of calming rhetoric

In North Korea Friday, CNN’s told, two medium-range missiles are in their launchers, loaded and ready to go.

The White House says it won’t be surprised if Kim Jong Un orders those missiles to be fired as a test of his military power.

The communist leader is sending all sorts of signals about his next move and when it might happen, including an ominous new warning to foreign diplomats.

To give us the global view on this unfolding story, our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr.

Filed under: Diplomacy • Kim Jong-un • Lavrov • Military • Missile Defense • North Korea • Russia • Security Brief • South Korea • US Forces Korea • White House
Papal diplomacy is not just pomp and circumstance
Pope Francis leads a mass at the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on Thursday a day after his election.
March 14th, 2013
06:21 PM ET

Papal diplomacy is not just pomp and circumstance

By Jamie Crawford

As Pope Francis assumes his role as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, he is also the newest head of a sovereign state that accepts and accredits foreign envoys while sending its own diplomats around the globe to advance its interests.

There currently are 179 diplomatic missions with ties to the Vatican.

To the casual observer, the post may seem like a dream assignment, full of pomp and circumstance in one of the world's most historic and beautiful cities. But there is more to the job than what meets the eye.

"It's really in a unique position to engage with the world's largest faith-based organization," Miguel Diaz, the most recent U.S. envoy to the Holy See, told CNN. President Barack Obama has yet to nominate a successor to Diaz, who stepped down in November.

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Filed under: Diplomacy
March 13th, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Material in North Korea's nuclear test unclear, worrying for U.S.

By Jill Dougherty and Pam Benson

More than a month after North Korea tested a nuclear device, the United States is unable to pinpoint whether the regime was able to use uranium to fuel the explosion, a capability that would represent a significantly enhanced nuclear program.

The lack of clarity comes as North Korea ratchets up its bellicose rhetoric each day.

New video broadcast on North Korean television showed the nation's leader, Kim Jong Un, addressing his troops along the border on Monday and issuing a blood-chilling threat, "Throw all enemies into the caldron, break their waists and crack their windpipes." It was the same location he and his late father visited in November 2010, just two days before the North shelled an island, killing four South Koreans.

The bellicose comments have been intensifying over the past months, increasing worry about Kim's unpredictability.


Aid experts warn U.S. aid to Syrian rebels blurs lines
March 2nd, 2013
12:50 PM ET

Aid experts warn U.S. aid to Syrian rebels blurs lines

By Allison Brennan and Elise Labott

The decision by the Obama administration to provide nonlethal aid to Syrian rebel forces seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad is drawing fire from some in the aid community, saying it politicizes aid and violates principles of neutrality which governs aid delivery.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday announced the United States would give aid to armed opposition, including medical supplies and meals. The aid marks the first signs of direct and vocal American support for the rebels in the nearly two-year bloody conflict, which the UN estimates has claimed more than 70,000 lives and forced millions more from their homes.

Washington hopes the aid will bolster the credibility of the Syrian opposition, peel away supporters from al-Assad and curb a growing allegiance to radical Islamic groups gaining favor among the population by providing basic services to citizens in rebel-controlled areas.

But some aid workers worry al-Assad’s regime could punish all humanitarian groups for the U.S. decision, thus hampering efforts to deliver aid. FULL POST

March 2nd, 2013
11:08 AM ET

US foreign aid on budget chopping block

CNN's Elise Labott looks at how U.S. foreign aid could be affected by the forced spending cuts.

A Turk's sacrifice for America
Turkish police officers react after an explosion at the entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara Friday, February 1, in this picture provided by Milliyet Daily Newspaper.
March 1st, 2013
12:49 PM ET

A Turk's sacrifice for America

By Jill Dougherty, traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry

In Ankara, Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came face to face with a tragedy that scarred his first day in office: the death of a security guard at the U.S. Embassy in the capital city.

Mustafa Akarsu died in a suicide bombing at the gates to the embassy he had guarded for 20 years. On Friday, his wife, two children and their uncle sat in the sunshine on the lawn of the embassy as Kerry expressed condolences on behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people.

"That was my first day as secretary of state," he said. "When I raised my hand to take the oath of office, this tragedy was immediately on my mind and in my heart, and I have carried the memory of that courage in every embassy I have walked into since, and I will in the days ahead."

Kerry presented to the family the American flag that flew over the embassy the day Akarsu died.

When the terrorist came to the gate, he said, "Mustafa didn't hesitate for a moment. He and his fellow guards acted heroically, saving lives, with quickness and with bravery."

Recalling other guards who have been killed at other embassies, Kerry said it is a "dangerous world," but embassy staff members do "indispensable work." FULL POST

Filed under: Diplomacy • Hot Spot Dispatch • John Kerry • Turkey
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