Clinton Concludes Outreach Trip Abroad

Hillary Clinton concludes her first trip to Europe and the Middle East in Turkey on Saturday. She's had to confront some of the biggest issues on America's foreign policy agenda: the endless quest for peace in the Middle East, what to do about Iran, the war in Afghanistan, relations with Europe and how to deal with the Russians.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

President Obama's comments on Afghanistan are another sign of his administration's efforts to hit the reset button on American foreign policy.

Here's how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in an interview with NPR this week.

Secretary Hillary Clinton (United States Department of State): We're testing the waters. We're determining what is possible. We're turning new pages and resetting buttons, and we're doing all kinds of, you know, efforts to try to create more partners and fewer adversaries.

LYDEN: Clinton spent the week pushing buttons across the Middle East and Europe. Her last stop today was in Turkey. NPR's Michele Kelemen has been traveling with the secretary and before they left today, she took a few moments outside the U.S. ambassador's residence there to tell us about the trip and bring us up to date. Hi, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Hi there, Jacki.

LYDEN: Well, even by the standards of diplomatic trips, this has been a big one.

KELEMEN: Indeed. I mean, we started in Egypt. We went to Israel, the West Bank, Brussels, and then Geneva last night, where the secretary met with her Russian counterpart for the first time, Sergey Lavrov. And now, we're here in Turkey.

LYDEN: Well, Turkey's an interesting choice to end it. What's going on?

KELEMEN: You know, it is interesting, particularly because this was a trip about outreach in the Middle East and Europe, and here's a country that's really at the crossroads of both its secular Muslim nation. And Secretary of State Clinton announced today that President Obama's going to be making a trip here within a month. And it's also played a key role in a lot of the issues that the U.S. is dealing with. I mean, just think about Iraq, Iran, and also the Middle East peace process.

LYDEN: Turkey mediating indirect talks last year between Israel and Syria. So, the secretary's already sent envoys to Syria, Michele. Any news from these people? Who are they?

KELEMEN: There are two. There's Jeffrey Feltman, who was an ambassador to Lebanon, and Dan Shapiro, who works in President Obama's National Security Council.

They met today with Syria's foreign minister and other top officials. U.S. officials said privately that, you know, they had constructive talks, but very little has been said about it.

And Secretary Clinton's been very careful to say that this is testing the waters. There's a lot of problems in relations, but she's seen what the U.S. can do with Syria.

LYDEN: Another interesting relationship, to say the least, the Obama administration seems to be following up on the campaign promises made to talk to Iran. It's come up a lot on this trip. In Brussels, Secretary Clinton proposed a major conference on Afghanistan. She said that Iran would be invited to that conference, but she's also had some tough words for the Islamic republic. Michele, how would you characterize her position?

KELEMEN: Well, she really had to walk a tight line here because she said that it came up in all the areas where she went. You know, there's a lot of concern in the Gulf states, for instance. The region wants to be consulted before the U.S. makes any deals with Iran. There's also a lot of concern about Iranian influence with terrorist groups and meddling in intra-Palestinian politics.

So, she heard a lot of concerns about that. On the other hand, especially in Europe, people are eager to see the Obama administration take a fresh approach.

LYDEN: Michele, you've been trekking with the secretary on both her trips so far, the big one to Asia and now this one. Tell us a little bit about the atmospherics of these journeys, how they're different from her predecessors'.

KELEMEN: You know, it's interesting. She sort of approaches it as a politician out campaigning for America, in a lot of ways, because she has a lot of, you know, the formal meetings, but she makes a point at every stop of meeting with young people, for instance, at the EU parliament building in Brussels.

And today in Ankara, she did this television talk show that they compared to "The View," where they asked her about her life, whether she has any time to go shopping or enjoy those kinds of little things in life.

She does get a lot of support on these things, a lot of applause at these town hall-style or talk shows that she's been going on.

LYDEN: NPR's Michele Kelemen, traveling with Secretary of State Clinton in Turkey. Have a good trip home, Michele.

KELEMEN: Thank you very much.

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