AHMEDABAD, India (AP) – Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he will travel to Paris this week to show solidarity with the French people, following sharp criticism of the Obama administration for not sending a senior official to Sunday’s rally for unity in Paris that was attended by some 40 world leaders and more than a million people.
Kerry said at a news conference that US officials, including himself and President Barack Obama, had been “deeply engaged” with French authorities almost immediately after the first attack occurred and had offered intelligence assistance.
As to criticism about the lack of a senior official at Sunday’s March, Kerry said, “I really think that this is sort of quibbling a little bit in the sense that our Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was there and marched, our ambassador was there and marched, many people from the embassy were there and marched.”
“As everybody knows, I have been here in India for a prior planned event,” he added. “I would have personally very much wanted to have been there but couldn’t do so because of the commitment that I had here and it is important to keep these kinds of commitments.”
Kerry said he is going to France to reaffirm US solidarity with America’s oldest ally. He said as soon as he heard about the march, he asked his team what the earliest time was that he could go.
“That is why I am going there on the way home and to make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there,” he said. “I don’t think the people of France have any doubt about America’s understanding about what happened, about our personal sense of loss and our deep commitment to the people of France in this moment of trial.”
While in Paris, Kerry will be meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and pay tribute to the victims of last week’s attacks, which killed 17 people. Kerry is a fluent French speaker, has a well-known affinity for France and has visited Paris more than a dozen times since becoming secretary of state.
Kerry will arrive in Paris on Thursday after stops in Sofia, Bulgaria and Geneva, Switzerland.
In Geneva, on Wednesday Kerry will he meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif to discuss the status of nuclear negotiations that are to resume the next day.
Kerry will be the highest-ranking US official to visit France since the terrorist attacks on a French newspaper and a kosher supermarket.
“I want to emphasize that the relationship with France is not about one day or one particular moment,” Kerry said. “It is an ongoing longtime relationship that is deeply, deeply based in the shared values, and particularly the commitment that we share to freedom of expression.”
The US ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was the top American official at Sunday’s unity march against barbarity.