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Kerry to visit Middle East, Moldova and attend NATO talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves before getting into his motorcade vehicle as he arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Novemb
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves before getting into his motorcade vehicle as he arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Novemb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah next week to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace and to consult Israeli officials about Iran, the State Department said on Wednesday.

During his trip from December 3 to December 6, Kerry will attend an annual meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels and will become the first secretary of State to visit Moldova in more than two decades.

Kerry had planned to visit Israel last week but postponed the trip and traveled instead to Geneva, where six major powers and Iran reached an interim agreement that would constrain the Iranian nuclear program in return for limited sanctions relief.

The agreement has drawn sharp criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described it as a "historic mistake" and expressed fears that the lifting of some sanctions would make it easier for Tehran to pursue a covert nuclear weapons program.

During his visit, Kerry will go to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to try to push forward a U.S-brokered peace process, following friction over Israel's plans for new settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In Moldova, Kerry will meet with senior government officials to discuss issues of common interest and the country's integration into western Europe.

Kerry dropped plans last week to attend a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Ukraine after that country halted plans for trade and political deals with the European Union. The EU blamed political pressure from Russia for Ukraine's about-turn.

In contrast, Moldova, which borders Ukraine and Romania, has said it will defy pressure from Moscow and agree to strengthen ties with the EU.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Lesley Wroughton; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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