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Kerry to Go to Europe to Discuss Syria, Mideast

Updated: Thursday, September 5 2013, 02:04 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to Europe for meetings on the ongoing crises in Syria and Egypt and efforts to negotiate a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry will travel Friday to Lithuania, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union.

He is to have meetings on Saturday with Lithuanian officials and meet with EU foreign ministers to discuss the Middle East, including Syria, Egypt and negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Kerry then will travel on to France to meet with French officials and representatives of the Arab League.

The secretary will end his trip on Monday in London where he will meet with British officials and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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Kerry to Go to Europe to Discuss Syria, Mideast

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The Syrian civil war, (also known as the Syrian uprising or Syrian crisis) is an ongoing armed conflict in Syria between forces loyal to the Ba'ath government and those seeking to oust it. A part of the larger Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, the conflict began March 15th, 2011 with local demonstrations that grew in scope to become nationwide by April 2011.

Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule, which began in 1963.

The Syrian Army was deployed in April of 2011 to stop the uprising, and soldiers fired on demonstrators across the country. After months of cities and neighborhoods being cut-off by the Army the protests evolved into an armed rebellion.

The Arab League, United States, European Union, and other countries condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership as a result of the government's response to the crisis, but granted the Syrian National Coalition, a coalition of Syrian political opposition groups, Syria's seat on 6 March 2013.

According to the UN, about 4 million Syrians have been displaced within the country and 2 million have fled to other countries.

Syrian government supporters include Russia and Iran, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing material and weapons to the rebels.

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