Remarks With Embassy Riyadh Staff and Families

John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
January 24, 2016

AMBASSADOR WESTPHAL: (In progress) brief introduction. You may not know this gentleman that is with us here today – (laughter) -- so I get to introduce him formally.

We just got through some fantastic meetings, the best meetings that I have been a part of in my two years here, and I think in the relationship. Most outstanding meetings we had. So we’ll talk about those events.

Let me just say that he’s good at what he does, because it’s in his blood. His father was a Foreign Service officer. And so it’s in his nature to be this incredible diplomat. He went to Yale University, graduated from Boston College with a law degree, did this little thing like run for president in 2004. And, Mr. Secretary, I was in the room when King Abdullah and you were talking, and you reminded him that you had run for president in 2004. And King Abdullah, who had a lot of spirit, went like this, and he said, “Why didn’t you win?” (Laughter.) “The world would be different today.” Yeah, we all ask that question.

SECRETARY KERRY: I have never asked it. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR WESTPHAL: So, if – someone like myself, who has been in government and politics for 40 years, the two – in my view, the two most prestigious places to be are the United States Senate – to be a United States Senator is one of the most incredible things you could ever imagine to be – and our Secretary was a United States Senator for 28 years. And if you’re in the United States Senate, the most incredible place to sit is to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he did that. And then, even more incredible, is to move from that job to be the 68th Secretary of State.

Mr. Secretary, thank you. Thank you for all you do. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody. How are you doing? Everybody good? New year started well, ready to go? I hope so.

I love this guy. He’s got a Tom Brady shirt on back here. (Laughter.) He’s ready to go today, he’s all fired up, right?


SECRETARY KERRY: Does he know there is a game? (Laughter.) Okay, game time.

PARTICIPANT: He’s sleeping.

SECRETARY KERRY: We don’t have any Denver Bronco fans here, do we? Good. (Laughter.)

All right, let me begin by thanking Joe Westphal, Ambassador Westphal, who is doing a spectacular job out here. He has had an unbelievable career himself, if you’re bragging on careers, about 40 years of service in government, and an education – particularly, I think, Oklahoma State, University of Maine, Georgetown – am I right? He’s had a long and distinguished career, and he served as Under Secretary of the Army, Acting Secretary of the Army. So he comes here with a lot of experience, and he’s the right man in this place at this time. And I want you all to join me in thanking him for the tremendous job that he is doing as ambassador. (Applause.) We appreciate it very, very much.

And Tim Lenderking over here, I’ve known Tim for a while, does a spectacular job. Thank you for what you’re doing as DCM. I really appreciate it very, very much, Tim, thank you. (Applause.)

And kiddies, thanks for coming out. I really appreciate it. How old are you, young man? How old are you?


SECRETARY KERRY: Nine years old? How long have you been here? Two years? You having fun? Is it interesting? Good. I’m glad he nodded yes. (Laughter.)

Anyway, everybody, I’m not going to keep you long. Let me just say we have – I think there are 12 people here who have served 35 years in this embassy, and I want everybody here to say a special thank-you for the local employees who have spent 35 years helping us to do our job here. (Applause.) And there are another 16 who have spent 30 years. So we have some longevity in this embassy, and that’s how we get things done. So all the local employees raise your hands, those of you who live here, and this is your home, and -- thank you. We can’t do our job without you. We are very, very grateful to you.

And there are four people I particularly want to mention. We have – who do we have?

Is Ghulam Khan here? Ghulam Khan is one of those who has worked for so long. Thank you, Ghulam. (Applause.)

Mohammed Ishaq? Mohammed Ishaq, thank you, Mohammed, very, very much. (Applause.)

And Habib Saeed? Habib, thank you very much. (Applause.)

And Ahmed Khayat? Ahmed, thank you. (Applause.)

Look at that, I pick out four names, and all four of them are here. That tells you something about loyalty. (Laughter.) I really appreciate that very, very much.

I just want to share a quick thought with all of you. I just had a chance to speak over at the Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce, meeting with the Saudis, Saudi Chamber, and a lot of exciting things are happening. But I want to make it clear to everybody here, because I pick up the newspapers and I read occasional columns, and you hear on TV, and people say, “Well, the United States may not be as locked in to the same old relationship that it’s had with Saudi Arabia, with its other friends in the Gulf,” or, “Maybe the Iran agreement has somehow turned things, and there is now some new regional alignment.”

Folks, we have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance, and a strong friendship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we ever had, and nothing has changed because we worked to eliminate a nuclear weapon with a country in the region. We still – and I said this in Vienna on the day that we made the announcements, that doing an agreement to get rid of a nuclear weapon doesn’t do away with the other issues that are still of concern.

So, we will continue to work in the region with our friends and our allies. And yesterday we had one of the best meetings I’ve had in my three years as Secretary with the Gulf States. We’re all in agreement. We’re going to be meeting again in a matter of weeks, and we’re going to continue to do things that will help to bring stability and prosperity to this region. No one is looking for conflict; we are looking to resolve these conflicts.

And we agreed yesterday to work hard on Yemen. We have new ideas about how we may be able to try to work to accelerate the effort to bring peace to Yemen. Saudi Arabia is committed to work with us in the effort to try to stabilize Syria and calm down this hyped-up, exploited division between Sunni and Shia. Nobody wants it.

Fifteen years ago, ten years ago, nobody was spending their time defining people by, “You’re Shia,” or, “You’re Sunni.” That didn’t happen. And it’s happening because there are some extremists who want to exploit it, and drive a wedge between people. And we are determined to continue to work with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with the Gulf States not to allow that to happen. That’s why you’re here. That’s why your work is so important.

And, even as we do that, we are engaged in a major effort to help the Saudi business community transition, to diversify. I just heard a number of major projects announced with General Electric, major projects in terms of mining, different kinds of things with water, sewer. There are huge enterprises underway. And I’ve asked every embassy in the world to recognize that foreign policy is economic policy, and economic policy is foreign policy.

So we need to help create jobs, we need to continue to work to facilitate people being able to do business. We want this region to be able to calm down and begin to focus on educating its kids, making sure we’re providing jobs for the future, and building stable and constructive communities that contribute to the peace and stability of the world. That’s what you’re involved in.

I want to thank you for President Obama, for the people of the United States of America. For those of you who are local employees, we thank you for joining with us in this great work. And for all of you who are away from home from the United States of America, you’re missing one hell of a big snow storm if you live on the East Coast. (Laughter.) So be glad that there is sun and sand out there. Enjoy it. But, most importantly, thank you, thank you, thank you for doing the great work of diplomacy. We love you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)