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Kerry contacts leaders around the world

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- New Secretary of State John Kerry reached out to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in phone calls during the weekend, assuring them the Obama administration would continue to pursue a Mideast peace agreement while recognizing the individual concerns on both sides.

Kerry told Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his and President Barack Obama's commitment to support Israel's security and to pursue a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. They also discussed Iran and Syria, and pledged to work together closely.

In his conversation yesterday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry said Obama "is very interested in the peace process and aware of the economic hardships of the Palestinian people," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said. Rdeneh also noted that Kerry said he would visit the region for further talks with Abbas "to preserve the political path."

On a busy first weekend as America's top diplomat, Kerry also talked with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and agreed to work closely together to prepare for the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington later this month.

He talked with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and agreed on the need to ensure that North Korea understands that it will face significant consequences from the international community if it continues its provocative behavior.

Kerry also got an update from Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, about the investigation into Friday's suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.

He spoke with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird about Iran, Mali and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas. He spoke with Mexico's foreign minister, Jose Antonio Meade, about the deadly blast at the headquarters of Mexico's state-owned oil company.

He also had lunch with George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan.

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