June 5, 2012 / 10:19 PM / 7 years ago

If it's Tuesday, Clinton must be in Batumi

BATUMI, Georgia (Reuters) - If it’s Tuesday, this must be Batumi.

A sunny day in early June finds U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Georgia’s Black Sea resort of Batumi, a beach town decidedly off the beaten path of high-level diplomacy.

The resort, with modern high-rise hotels contrasting with ornate, tsarist-era buildings, is the sixth stop in the seven countries that Clinton is visiting during an eight-day trip to Scandinavia, the Caucasus and Turkey.

In the final of the four years she says she will serve as secretary of state, Clinton had made time to tour the Arctic by boat, to dine in Copenhagen’s Tivoli gardens and to visit this town on the Black Sea.

While renowned for her work ethic and mastery of detail, Clinton at times seems to be looking ahead to the next chapter of her life and willing to do things that she might not have done earlier in her tenure as secretary of state.

In the past few months, Clinton has gone whale-watching off the coast of Mexico, danced and drank beer at a bar in the Colombian Caribbean port of Cartagena and, in Norway on Saturday, took a two-hour cruise through the Arctic on a research trawler.


Work, however, follows her everywhere.

To take just one example, while en route to Denmark last week, Clinton called U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan from her plane to discuss the worsening crisis in Syria, in which government forces have killed more than 10,000 people, according to the United Nations.

In Copenhagen on Thursday, Clinton said she hankers to do ordinary things after two decades near the pinnacle of American politics.

“I would like to be able to just take a long walk,” she told Danish students. “I’m just looking forward to exhaling and seeing what else lies ahead.”

Asked if she could rule out running for U.S. president in 2016, she replied: “Yes.” She unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 in a tough battle against Barack Obama, who went on to win the presidency and then asked her to serve as his secretary of state.

The five nights that she spent during her current trip in Denmark, Norway and Sweden - countries with which the United States has few, if any, disagreements - was an unusual expenditure of time for a U.S. secretary of state.

Swedish diplomats told their American colleagues they believed it had been more than three decades since a U.S. secretary of state had come to Sweden just for bilateral talks rather than for an international conference or wider meeting.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) as they leave following a cultural dancing and singing performance at the Piazza in Batumi June 5, 2012. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool

At each stop in Scandinavia, Clinton warmly thanked the Nordic countries, known for their commitment to aid donations and their involvement in global challenges. Aides said Clinton made the visit to show her appreciation.

She also made time for a boat ride in each country.

She spent about half an hour cruising along Copenhagen’s main canal with Denmark’s foreign minister, taking in everything from the city’s new black glass-enclosed royal theater to its iconic “little mermaid” statue.

At Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt’s invitation, she spent about four hours in meetings aboard a small luxury boat, passing red Swedish summer cottages as well as stately mansions as they cruised among the Stockholm archipelago’s rocky islands.


To suggest that the boat rides were simply sightseeing would be unfair. On the Stockholm cruise, she held meetings with Bildt, who likes to show the archipelago’s rugged beauty to visiting dignitaries, as well as with the Swedish defense minister.

After a day of talks with Norwegian officials in Oslo, Clinton flew to Norway’s Arctic city of Tromso to highlight the strategic importance of the Arctic region.

The two hours that she spent cruising the local fjord getting briefings aboard a research vessel sought to illustrate the geopolitical significance of the Arctic as its ice melts and vast mineral resources and new shipping routes become available.

After getting off the boat, and before flying to Stockholm, Clinton spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, again to discuss the violence in Syria.

From Sweden, Clinton flew to Armenia on Monday, urging it, and neighbor Azerbaijan, not to allow their long-standing territorial dispute to erupt into a regional conflagration. She is due to visit Azerbaijan on Wednesday.

In Georgia, she has diplomatically pressed the government to hold free and fair parliamentary elections.

Even the visit to Batumi, a resort town that is attracting five-star hotels and an investment from New York real estate mogul Donald Trump, has a foreign policy point.

Aides said the visit would dramatize the difference between the booming Georgian resort and the isolated towns in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two Georgian enclaves over which Russia tightened its control after a five-day war in 2008.

She wraps up her trip in Istanbul for talks on Syria on Wednesday night and a counter-terrorism conference on Thursday before returning to Washington that night.

Slideshow (6 Images)

On Friday, she will hit the ground running, holding talks with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, hosting a lunch for Philippine President Benigno Aquino and meeting Annan to discuss Syria.

Asked in January what she would do after she left the State Department, Clinton said it would probably be “a good idea to just find out how tired I am.” She then added: “I will just work as hard as I can to the last minute.”

Editing by Will Dunham

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