Pence to travel to Middle East despite potential shutdown


Vice President Mike Pence is greeting USA soldiers at Shannon Airport in Ireland hours after the federal government shutdown.

He is telling the soldiers to "stay focused on your mission".

Vice President Mike Pence has departed for the Middle East, despite the looming threat of a government shutdown.

He will visit Egypt, Jordan and Israel over four days but won't meet with Palestinians, reflecting the impasse in the Trump administration's efforts to broker peace between them and Israel.

Vice President Pence warned of "dangerous consequences" for the country's defense amid the government shutdown on Saturday after the Senate failed to reach a deal to fund the government.

Pence will also deliver remarks to Israeli's parliament, or Knesset, where he would "take (the) opportunity to highlight the fact that he's speaking in Jerusalem the Capital of Israel", officials say.

President Donald Trump scrapped his plans to travel to Florida Friday as he worked to try to avert a shutdown.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also invoked national defense while blasting Democrats over the shutdown, which officially started Friday night at midnight.

Pence landed in Egypt Saturday to kick off a Middle East trip that will also include stops in Jordan and Israel, after canceling a December visit due to the passage of United States tax reform.

Air Force Two is scheduled to refuel in Ireland after midnight Saturday en route to Cairo.

Greenblatt arrived in Israel on Thursday to meet with Israeli officials and representatives of the so-called Middle East Quartet including the U.S., UN, EU and Russian Federation.

The vice president first will meet in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the strongman Trump called "my friend" during an Oval Office meeting in April.

Vice President Mike Pence is making his fourth visit to Israel, returning to a region he's visited "a million times" in his heart.

The Palestinian government suspended all contact with the Trump administration after the US president's December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital - a move that drew condemnation from across the Arab and Muslim world.