Kerry hopes for diplomatic deal on Iran nuclear program
John Kerrry on first international trip since taking over as U.S. secretary of state
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hopes Iran will work towards a diplomatic solution in on-going talks about the country's developing nuclear program.
Kerry told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that he wanted to "express my hope that these talks can advance that dialogue and that Iran itself will make its choice to move down the path of a diplomatic solution. There is a diplomatic path, there is a clear way through this and I want these talks to have a chance to work through before I comment further."
Kerry made the comment during the second day of his first international tour as Washington's top diplomat. He took over from Hillary Clinton earlier this month.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle thanked him for making Berlin one of his first stops, describing it as a "clear commitment to the transatlantic partnership."
Indeed, the EU-U.S. free trade agreement is one of the big topics on Kerry’s agenda. Negotiations are set to begin this summer but already there has been a lot of discussion about it.
"President Obama has announced his vision, which I think is an important one, and shared by the chancellor and others here, for a new economic partnership with Europe," Kerry said.
"Germany is our largest trade partner in Europe, and we want to see even more trade and investment that will create jobs – jobs for Germans, jobs for Americans, jobs for all Europeans, and help lift the European economy at a time when it obviously needs it," he said.
The ongoing conflict in Syria was on the agenda, but Kerry refused to say much before talks in Rome later this week.
He and Westerwelle also discussed the upcoming withdrawal from Afghanistan. The U.S. has said it will maintain a military mission beyond the planned withdrawal and Germany will also keep soldiers there in a supporting role past 2014.
Boyhood adventures in divided postwar Berlin
Kerry has a soft spot for Berlin.
He told students at an internet café that he’s thrilled to be back, after spending part of his childhood in the city. His father was an American diplomat during the 1950s, when Berlin was still a divided city.
Kerry recalled the story of a clandestine bike ride into communist East Berlin.
"I saw the difference between East and West. I saw the people wearing darker clothing. There were fewer cars. I didn't feel the energy or the movement," he said.
When he returned home, Kerry said his father "got very upset with me and said: `You could have created an international incident. I could have lost my job.' So I lost my passport, and I was grounded and I never made another trip like that."
Later, Kerry praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who is from the former East Germany — for what she has done to rebuild Berlin and the country.
"What you have done for the city and the country is nothing short of remarkable. This is one of the great cities of the world and it’s a privilege for me to be able to visit it today," he said during a press statement.
"President Obama and the American people would really like to thank you for what is unquestionably one of our most strong, vibrant alliances in the world."
CBC in Berlin
Karen Pauls is in Berlin to enhance CBC's European coverage at a time when the continent is struggling through one of the most unpredictable periods in recent history. Germany's prosperity is being closely watched as the ongoing fiscal crisis puts the European Union under great strain.
Pauls has covered national affairs in Canada for CBC Radio, and was previously posted in London, U.K., and Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @karenpaulscbc.
During his stop in Berlin, Kerry will meet with the Russian Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov, at a time when relations between Moscow and Washington are tense.
The two counties disagree over Syria and Iran. Washington has criticized Russia for human rights abuses, while the Kremlin has banned U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
Kerry started his nine-nation tour Monday in London. He will also visit Paris and Rome, before heading to Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Obama will visit Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan next month, but Kerry is playing down expectations of a new U.S. push to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
"We're not going to go and sort of plunk a plan down and tell everybody what they have to do," Kerry told German students. "I want to consult and the president wants to listen."