Kerry replaces Clinton as top American diplomatBy Lalit K Jha Feb 2, 2013 - 17:32
WASHINGTON (PAN): Capping nearly three decades of public life, John Kerry was sworn in as US Secretary of State on Friday replacing charismatic Hillary Clinton as the country’s top diplomat.
Top challenges for Kerry would be a drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan, a successful security transition and overseeing reconciliation process with the Taliban.
“I was very honored to be sworn in and very anxious to get to work,” Kerry told media with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, after being sworn in by the Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
Kerry, who served as a Massachusetts Senator for 28 years and was Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee, would report to the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department Monday morning.
The White House said President Barack Obama believed Kerry would be a very successful Secretary of State. “The President is very confident that now-Secretary Kerry will be an excellent member of his Cabinet and will serve auspiciously in that position,” the White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters at his daily news conference.
A Vietnam war veteran, Kerry in the last four years played a key role in shaping the country’s foreign policy and national security and on a range of issues including Afghanistan and Pakistan, nuclear nonproliferation, and global climate change.
Earlier in the day, Hillary Clinton bid an emotional farewell to the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department. “I know that the world we are trying to help bring into being in the 21st century will have many difficult days. But I am more optimistic today than I was when I stood here four years ago,” Clinton told hundreds of employees of the State Department as she left its headquarters in Washington Friday afternoon ending three decades of public life.
Being “very proud to have been Secretary of State” Clinton said she would miss them. “I will probably be dialing ops just to talk. I will wonder what you all are doing, because I know that because of your efforts day after day, we are making a real difference,” Clinton said amidst laughter and applause.
“It has been quite a challenging week saying goodbye to so many people and knowing that I will not have the opportunity to continue being part of this amazing team. But I am so grateful that we've had a chance to contribute in each of our ways to making our country and our world stronger, safer, fairer and better,” Clinton said speaking as the Secretary of State for the last time.
During his confirmation hearing, Kerry had emphasized on free and fair elections in Afghanistan and had ruled out any changes in the US red line for peace talks with the Taliban.
“If it (elections) doesn't have legitimacy, if we don't succeed in that effort, it is going to be very, very difficult to convince the American people and convince our allies in ISAF and beyond to stay engaged in this effort if they're not willing to provide for themselves with respect to that,” he said.
“I went through this personally with President Karzai in the last election, where there were serious questions about the propriety of process, and we have to sort of strike the compromise about it. I don't think there'll be room for a compromise in the aftermath here. So this is a very, very important initiative, and I will certainly make sure that we're riding herd on it very, very closely,” Kerry said.
Kerry also ruled out any change in the red line for peace talks with the Taliban. “We have made it clear -- the administration has made it clear, and I will support that if and when I become Secretary of State, and that is the commitment that if there is a negotiation with the Taliban, one of the conditions is they have to give up any association with al-Qaida, they'll commit to nonviolence, but most importantly, they must commit to respect the constitution of Afghanistan and the current status of women and girls within their society,” he said.