Meeting With Mission Saudi Arabia Staff

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
November 4, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you very, very much. How are you all? Everybody good? Did anybody here care that the Red Sox won? I saw one hand go up – two, three. (Laughter.) Well, at least somebody is staying in touch. That’s great.

Well, it’s good to be here with everybody. I understand you have a new welcome to the great 120 kids family, and we have Lucas – Louis, Bill, and Claudia. Where are they? Right here. Come on up. Let me – come over. Let me see. How old is he now?

PARTICIPANT: He is four weeks today.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, my God. And I’ve really woken him up big time, haven’t I? (Laughter.) He’s sound asleep, folks. He could care less. (Laughter.) That is so fantastic. That’s so cool. How many kids do you have?

PARTICIPANT: This is our first kid.

SECRETARY KERRY: Fabulous. Congratulations. That’s really, really fantastic. That’s great. (Applause.) I’m excited about that. I’m paying really close attention now because I have two daughters, both of whom are pregnant at the same time, right now. So, high expectations – a second for one, and a first for the other. So it was really fun.

So, are you guys having fun? Hi, how are you? You look fabulous. You absolutely look spectacular. Everybody have a good Halloween?


SECRETARY KERRY: All right. I am proud to announce that the winner of the best door is the financial management bureau. (Applause.) So, what did you do? Tell me what you did. What did you do to the door? I mean, it was so scary. Where are you from? You’re from India. Do you like Halloween? Do you think you could take it back to India? We could make a big deal. (Laughter.) Anyway, that’s very exciting.

Listen, thank you all very much. I just want to say to everybody here, we are enormously appreciative. President Obama, Vice President Biden, myself, really want to say thank you to all of you for the great work that you do. We have the three posts out here as you all know better than anybody – Dhahran and Jeddah and Riyadh. And a lot of work gets done. And I know it’s not the easiest posting, and that’s why I particularly want to thank you. There are always difficulties in any country where we go because everybody has to adjust, but needless to say, here, where there have been tensions and there are different norms and different cultural restraints and different requirements, everybody needs to really be a lot more sensitive to those things. So I thank you for doing that and I thank you for the tremendous work that you’re doing.

I am here now because there’s a lot happening in this region, and obviously with Egypt in transition and facing major economic challenges, with the challenges of Yemen and counterterrorism, and Bahrain going through certain transition and its own tensions, and of course Syria, which is putting pressure on everybody, and needless to say the ever presence of various jihadists of one kind or another – al-Qaida, others, al-Shabaab. I mean, you run the list.

So it’s difficult, but we’re making progress. I really believe that. Slowly but surely, I think people are beginning to realize there’s a better alternative than this incredible nihilism where people think that you get somewhere by blowing other people up without any other purpose. The Saudis particularly are trying to make a transition. The King is investing in diversity, he’s investing in education, he’s investing in health care. And as you know, because you live here, there are things that are changing. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. But there’s a transformation taking place throughout the Middle East. And I think that if we can be successful in Egypt, for instance, and if we can get stability and ultimately hopefully peace in a place like Syria, the possibilities are endless.

The Saudis are very, very important to all of these things. The Saudis are really the sort of senior player, if you will, within the Arab world, together with Egypt. Egypt is in more of a transition, so Saudi Arabia’s role is that much more important. And the Saudis have an ability to be able to influence a lot of the things that we also care about and we work together on. And we’re working together particularly on the Middle East peace process, on Syria, on Egypt, and on Iran. Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. We are determined. President Obama has made that absolutely clear. And we need to work with our Saudi friends in an effort to try to deal with all of these issues.

Now, as all of you know because you’re the people dealing with it on a day-to-day basis, we have a lot going on with the Saudis. We do a lot. We do things in military to military. We do counterintelligence. We do agriculture, education, in health. There are a whole bunch of things that we do. So this Embassy and our consulate efforts here in this country are enormously, enormously important. And I want to thank every single one of you.

I understand there’s a fellow, Ghulam Rasool Khan. He’s not here, I know. But I want to thank all of the local staff. I think there are 30 nationalities working here in this family, and we are very, very grateful to the many local staff who help to make our functions possible here. But it’s really quite amazing. And Ghulam has been here since 1977, which is a pretty long time. He’s got all the bad stories, all the good ones from all that history. But, anyway.

So I just wanted to say to you as I come through here fairly quickly – I don’t usually make such a quick stop, but we have a very intensive schedule this week. But I particularly wanted to have the opportunity to visit with His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia. And I’m particularly grateful because I know that he is not seeing enormous numbers of people these days. But right now, we have some very important things to talk about to make certain that the Saudi Arabian-U.S. relationship is on track, moving forward, and doing the things that we need to accomplish.

So a profound thank you to every single one of you. We’re proud of you. We’re grateful for all the hard work you do. And I hope that in the days ahead I’ll get back here, and next time I come, I can welcome three or four or five more new children. We’ll see what happens. Thanks very much. Take care. (Applause.)

PRN: 2013/T17-04