Secretary of State John Kerry did not mention in his first major address the civil war in Syria that has claimed more than 70,000 lives.
The omission comes just days after reports that the White House could reconsider a plan to arm Syrian rebels.
“This is not a closed decision,” a senior administration official told the New York Times. “As the situation evolves, as our confidence increases, we might revisit it.”
The White House rejected last summer a plan to arm vetted opposition fighters proposed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former C.I.A. Director David H. Petraeus. That plan, revealed last month, was also supported by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
The State Department has sent $50 million in non-lethal aid to the anti-Assad forces.
Kerry is expected to meet with the leadership of the Syrian Opposition Coalition in Italy during his upcoming trip abroad. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday there were no policy changes to announce regarding the administration’s policy toward arming the rebels.
Kerry discussed a wide range of issues at the University of Virginia Wednesday, including climate change, the war on terrorism in Mali and Pakistan, and America’s responsibility to the world, claiming that “in today’s global world, there is no longer anything foreign about foreign policy.”
Kerry also took the opportunity to talk about the State Department’s budget and how it compares to the revenue of the opening weekend of “The Avengers.”
“The State Department’s conflict stabilization budget is about $60 million a year now. That’s how much the movie, ‘The Avengers’ took in on a single Sunday last May,” he said.