Posted by on December 12, 2012 in Blog

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scheduled to travel to Marrakech, Morocco today to partake in a meeting with Friends of the Syrian People, an international organization in which a group of over seventy nations assemble to discuss the Syrian conflict outside the UN Security Council on Wednesday. However, her trip was cancelled due to a stomach virus. “Since she's still under the weather, we'll be staying put this week instead of heading to North Africa and the Middle East as originally planned,” Clinton spokesperson Philippe Reines said in a statement. Reines added, “in her place, Deputy Secretary [Bill] Burns will travel to Marrakech for the Friends of the Syrian People meeting. We will let you know when she shakes this bug and resumes a public schedule.”

Several nations including France, Britain, and Turkey have already recognized the National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces as the sole representative of the Syrian people. Mustafa Sabbagh, the Secretary General of the National Coalition was banking on Clinton’s attendance at the Marrakech meeting.  After several Western powers deemed the coalition the legitimate representative of Syrians, Sabbagh expects a similar acknowledgment from the US.

Although Burns has not made any indication of US recognition of the National Coalition, President Obama has announced the decision to acknowledge the council in Morocco, stating that "we've made a decision that the Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime." On his recent tour to Manama, however, Burns did say that a political transition in Syria was under way and that the Obama administration is continually looking for ways in which to "help speed the genuine transition of power" as it continues to work towards unifying a Syrian opposition.

Clinton, who is due to leave her post next month, was also scheduled to travel to Tunisia after attending the summit in Marrakech. In Tunis, she was to co-host at the Forum for the Future, an organization that gathers countries from North Africa and the Middle East and G8 states to discuss an array of topics including political reform, human rights, freedom of governance and expression, women’s empowerment, and supremacy of the law. Burns, however, will represent the United States at this conference as well.

The Secretary of State was set to conclude her tour of the region in Abu Dhabi on December 14, where she was to attend the Global Counter Terrorism forum in which Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed plans to announce the opening of the International Center of Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism. In addition, she was also planning to discuss bilateral issues with UAE government officials. 

The trip was a last opportunity for the top diplomat to meet with government officials and discuss key issues that plague the region. All eyes will now be on Burns as he begins his tour of the region.

 

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