Senator Cowan on four-day visit to Middle East

Senator William "Mo" Cowan.
Brendan Hoffman for The Boston Globe
Senator William "Mo" Cowan.

WASHINGTON — US Senator Mo Cowan on Tuesday will begin a four-day swing through Israel, Jordan, and Turkey to meet with foreign leaders, assess US aid programs, and see first-hand the refugee crisis sparked by Syria’s civil war, according to his office.

The trip will be his first overseas since being appointed in January to temporarily fill the seat vacated by John F. Kerry. With the special election for a permanent replacement looming, it will also likely be his only one.

Cowan is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and senior Turkish business leaders. He will also tour a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, his office said.


“A major focus is security concerns and what’s going on in the region,” said his spokesman, Alec Gerlach.

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Gerlach also said his boss wants to form a better opinion of how the significant amount of US aid that goes to Israel and Jordan annually — $3 billion and $675 million, respectively — is being spent.

“We are debating the budget right now,” Gerlach said, and Cowan is interested in “how that is being reflected in what they are doing in the region and where our priorities lie.”

Cowan will also get a first-hand look at the some of the growing economic ties between the Bay State and Israel’s high-tech manufacturing sector.

The Massachusetts Israel Innovation Partnership, established by Governor Deval Patrick encourages innovation and entrepreneurship between Massachusetts’ and Israel’s life sciences, clean energy and technology sectors.


“Senator Cowan is eager to continue and strengthen the partnership between Massachusetts and Israel – a relationship that has more than 100 companies with Israeli founders or Israeli-licensed technologies in the Commonwealth,” his office said. “There’s no question that our economic ties there are linked to security and stability in the Middle East.”

Cowan will also encourage more economic ties between the bay State and Turkey, where his office estimates Massachusetts companies export more than $300 million worth of goods each year.

The trip, which will conclude on Saturday, will also include Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Bryan Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBender