As diplomacy hits a snag, U.S. eyes future with Egypt
August 7th, 2013
08:23 PM ET

As diplomacy hits a snag, U.S. eyes future with Egypt

By Elise Labott

International diplomacy hit a dead end Wednesday when the interim Egyptian government broke off talks to defuse the political crisis.

Egypt declared efforts to broker an agreement between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military-backed government a failure, putting an end to an intense effort by the United States, the European Union and other countries to end the stalemate sparked by the military's ouster of President Mohammed Morsy.

"These efforts have not achieved the hoped for results," the Egyptian presidency said in a statement on the end of the mediation. The statement placed blame on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The president thanked diplomats for mediation efforts but didn't take kindly to warnings from key U.S. senators in the region. FULL POST

Kerry: Israelis and Palestinians to return to talks
Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Friday.
July 19th, 2013
03:01 PM ET

Kerry: Israelis and Palestinians to return to talks

The long-dormant Middle East peace efforts got new life on Friday.

An agreement has been reached that "establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between" Palestinians and Israel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Amman, Jordan.

"This is a significant and welcome step forward," Kerry said.

This came as Kerry visited the Middle East this week and came up with a formula for reanimating peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian territories, a source close to the talks said.


Filed under: Diplomacy • Israel • Palestine • Sec. State John Kerry
Egypt coup raises questions on U.S. military aid
July 3rd, 2013
06:30 PM ET

Egypt coup raises questions on U.S. military aid

By Tom Cohen

A foreign policy headache for President Barack Obama worsened on Wednesday as Egypt endured its second coup in less than three years.

The declaration by Egypt's powerful military that suspended the constitution and removed President Mohamed Morsy from power raised questions about U.S. military aid to an important Middle East ally that borders Israel.

In addition, the coup ousted Egypt's first democratically elected leader a year after he took office, creating a further uncomfortable policy scenario for a U.S. government and president that champion democratic principles.

Top national security officials including Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and CIA Director John Brennan headed to the White House after the coup announcement Wednesday.

In Egypt, the U.S. Embassy ordered the evacuation of non-essential personnel, a senior administration official told CNN.


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Filed under: Diplomacy • Egypt • Middle East
July 2nd, 2013
10:49 AM ET

U.S urging Morsy to call early elections amid official denials

By Elise Labott

The United States urged Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsy to call early elections with anti-government demonstrations intensifying and the Egyptian military pressuring him to resolve the situation, senior administration officials told CNN privately.

"We are saying to him, 'Figure out a way to go for new elections,'" one senior official said on Tuesday. "That may be the only way that this confrontation can be resolved."

The source asked not to be identified due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the matter.

But publicly, the administration pushed back at the characterization that it urged early elections.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki went so far as to say reports saying so were inaccurate.

“It's not up to the U.S. to make that decision or to make that call,” Psaki said.


Measured tones mask Washington's fury with Hong Kong over Snowden
June 24th, 2013
12:45 PM ET

Measured tones mask Washington's fury with Hong Kong over Snowden

By Peter Shadbolt

It was clear from the statement from the National Security Council (NSC) on Monday that the United States is deeply annoyed with Hong Kong.

Couched in diplomatic language, the statement spelled out Washington's position: Hong Kong dropped the ball on Edward Snowden and the U.S. wants Russia to pick it up.

"We are disappointed by the decision of the authorities in Hong Kong to permit Mr. Snowden to flee despite the legally valid U.S. request to arrest him for purposes of his extradition under the U.S.-Hong Kong Surrender Agreement," said NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden in a statement.

"We have registered our strong objections to the authorities in Hong Kong as well as to the Chinese government through diplomatic channels and noted that such behavior is detrimental to U.S.-Hong Kong and U.S.-China bilateral relations."

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Filed under: China • Diplomacy • Intelligence
June 18th, 2013
10:59 AM ET

Security handover, diplomacy in Afghanistan. A new chapter?

By Kyle Almond, Elise Labott and Joe Sterling

Hope flickered in war-torn Afghanistan on Tuesday as national security forces formally took over security leadership and peace talks with the Taliban are now in the works.

NATO-led troops transferred security responsibility to Afghan forces. The United States and an Afghan government group dedicated to peace and reconciliation will hold talks with the Taliban militant group in Qatar.

"I wish a long-term peace in Afghanistan," Afghan President Harmid Karzai told his troops at a handover ceremony in Kabul.

But a senior U.S. official said reconciliation is likely to be "long, complex and messy" because trust between Afghans and the Taliban is extremely low.

The latest moves could portend a hopeful chapter in the long and costly Afghan conflict. What do these developments mean for Afghanistan and the United States?

U.S. takes wait-and-see stance on Iran's new president
June 17th, 2013
06:19 PM ET

U.S. takes wait-and-see stance on Iran's new president

By Jill Dougherty

The U.S. State Department said Monday it wasn't surprised that Iran's newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should stay in power until 2014.

"We have a number of differences with Iran, and the leadership there, over Syria and the path forward," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. "We've expressed on a number of occasions our concerns about their recent aid to the regime and the influx of foreign fighters, and specifically Hezbollah."

The United States and other Western nations are working on how to help the rebels in Syria's brutal, two-year civil war as the al-Assad government receives backing from Iran and Russia.


June 16th, 2013
08:01 PM ET

New diplomats train for car bombs, kidnappings

CNN's Jill Dougherty gets access to a training facility in West Virginia where new diplomats see first-hand the dangers they face in high-threat posts.

Analysis: Path to Syria peace talks littered with obstacles
Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris on May 27, 2013.
May 31st, 2013
04:30 PM ET

Analysis: Path to Syria peace talks littered with obstacles

By Elise Labott, reporting from Jerusalem

American, Russian and U.N. officials are set to meet next week in Geneva, Switzerland, to prepare for peace talks on Syria. Those talks would bring together officials from the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and members of the Syrian opposition to discuss a political transition.

Proposed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, they are tentatively scheduled for mid-June. But unresolved disagreements among members of the international community and continued disputes within the Syrian opposition cast doubt on whether the talks can be held so soon, or at all.

Russia is proving to be one of the primary spoilers of its own diplomatic initiative. Even as Kerry flew home from Paris after meeting with Lavrov to discuss plans for the Geneva conference, Moscow announced its decision to sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. The S-300s can intercept manned aircraft and guided missiles, and their delivery could improve al-Assad's chances of retaining power.

At best, a move of weapons to the regime to further its violence against the Syrian people casts doubt on Russia's stated intention of finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

U.S. Syria envoy likely to leave post
U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford
May 29th, 2013
06:32 PM ET

U.S. Syria envoy likely to leave post

By Elise Labott, reporting from Jerusalem

Robert Ford, the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, is expected to leave his post in July, a senior State Department official said.

The move was expected and does not signify a policy shift on Syria, as his term was due to end, the official said.

His departure from the post is considered part of the regular shuffle of ambassadors, which takes place during the summer, the official said.

Ford was pulled from Damascus in October 2011 due to "credible threats against his personal safety," the State Department said at the time.

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