Wyoming-bound diplomats head to a different kind of summit

Olivier Knox

Mitt Romney isn't the only VIP heading to Wyoming. Ambassadors from 22 countries are trading the stuffy formality of Washington for the open spaces of the country's least-populated state on Friday for a three-day trip organized by the State Department to promote America overseas. No word on whether the diplomats will cross paths with the potential future president.

Envoys from countries like Libya, South Sudan, Georgia and Peru will visit Cody, Jackson, Moose and Moran, and tour Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, guided by U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall.

"By sharing Wyoming's story and landscape with these distinguished diplomats, we are strengthening America's relationship with countries around the world by providing our visitors with a deeper understanding of our nation's people, heritage, and history," the State Department said in a statement.The diplomats will begin their visit with a welcome dinner Friday in Moose, Wyo. On Saturday, they will visit Grand Teton and take part in a search-and-rescue briefing with the Jenny Lake Rangers.

From there, it's off to the Jackson Lake Lodge in Moran for a lesson on the historical importance of the National Park system. (But then it's work, work, work: A video message from former Secretary of State James Baker will discuss his 1989 meeting in Wyoming with his Soviet counterpart at the time, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnaze.) An evening visit to the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center will include a discussion of preservation efforts.

On Sunday, the diplomats will visit Yellowstone and then head to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody.

On Monday, they will meet former World Bank President James Wolfensohn for another talk on natural conservation and preservation.

The trip is one in a series the State Department calls "Experience America," an effort "to foster international goodwill and cultivate the relationship between the Diplomatic Corps and the people and institutions of the United States through an exchange of ideas, cultures and traditions."

Previous visits have taken foreign diplomats to Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and multiple spots in Alaska, California, Florida and Texas.

The countries represented this time around are: Andorra, Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Gabon, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Libya, Macedonia, Malaysia, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Paraguay, Peru, Slovenia, South Sudan, Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago.