Keystone XL pipeline decision coming soon, Kerry says
TransCanada CEO discussed federal review process with U.S. State Department on Thursday
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, trade, energy security, the environment, Iran, Syria and Mali, even hockey — were among the topics discussed when Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird met with newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Friday afternoon in Washington, D.C.
With the fate of the controversial $7-billion proposed pipeline in his hands, Kerry said the federal review by the U.S. State Department would be "fair, transparent, and accountable."
While Kerry refused to get into the merits of the proposed TransCanada pipeline which, would run almost 2,000 miles from Alberta to Texas, he said a decision would be made in the "near term."
Kerry's assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, Kerri-Ann Jones, met with TransCanada CEO Russ Girling on Thursday.
The two met to discuss the Keystone XL pipeline project and the ongoing review process, Shawn Howard, a spokesperson for Girling, told CBC News.
"TransCanada continues to believe that Keystone XL will be approved," said Howard.
"The environmental questions have been addressed. The need for the pipeline has been clearly demonstrated. The real question is whether or not Keystone XL meets the regulatory standards for a presidential permit."
"We believe that we have exceeded the regulatory standards for this cross-border pipeline and none of the facts behind the need for Keystone XL have changed," said Howard.
Under pressure from Canada, TransCanada, as well as both pro-pipeline and anti-pipeline groups, Kerry has not indicated where he stands on the project, saying only "I will be a passionate advocate on this not based on ideology but based on facts and science," during his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan.24.
"The Keystone XL pipeline is a huge priority for our government and for the Canadian economy," Baird told reporters.
From Iran to hockey
Kerry said the two also discussed their common efforts on Iran.
"I emphasize we are committed to preventing Iran from securing a nuclear weapon. And we will continue our dual-track policy of both pressure and engagement," said Kerry.
The U.S. secretary of state said the U.S. has agreed to meet with Iranian officials again in two weeks in Kazakhstan.
He warned Iran that "the window for diplomacy is still open" but if Iran can't prove to the world that its nuclear program is peaceful and a diplomatic solution can't be found, the U.S. president "is prepared to do whatever is necessary to make certain that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon."
Baird said while he shares the view that a diplomatic solution is possible, "a nuclear-armed Iran is the biggest threat to international peace and security."
The conversation began on a lighter note when the two talked about Canada's favourite pastime.
Kerry joked that because he is a Boston Bruins fan and Baird cheers for the Ottawa Senators, the two clashed in many ways.
However, "it's the first time I've ever heard anybody talk well of senators," Kerry joked.
Baird was the first foreign official Kerry has met with since assuming office on Feb. 1.
Kerry's decision to hold his first bilateral meeting with Canada was meant to "underscore the extraordinary strength of the relationship," Kerry told reporters.
Next U.S. ambassador to Canada
With the appointment of David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, coming to an end in a few months after a four-year term, there has been much speculation about U.S. President Barack Obama's choice for the next U.S. envoy to Canada.
Several names have been rumoured, including that of Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy.
"I have no personnel announcements to make here, but you know that the White House is responsible for making such announcements when the president is ready to nominate folks," U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters during Thursday's daily press briefing.
When asked if Kerry, a long-time friend of the Kennedy family, would welcome such an appointment, Nuland repeated "again, I don’t have anything on personnel to share today."
Kerry's phone call to Baird
Baird was one of the first foreign officials Kerry called last Saturday, during his first weekend on the job.
On Monday, Baird told reporters he used the conversation with Kerry to make the case for the U.S. State Department's approval of the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.
Kerry said that the two agreed to work closely together on a broad range of issues and "agreed to stay in touch on the Keystone pipeline."
Baird also told reporters that Kerry didn't raise any concerns about the alleged Canadian involvement in last month's gas plant attack in Algeria.
Kerry was sworn in at a small, private ceremony on Capitol Hill last Friday, less than two hours after Clinton stepped down from the job.