Meeting With U.S. Embassy Vienna Staff

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ambassador Alexa L. Wesner
Bristol Hotel
Vienna, Austria
May 18, 2016

AMBASSADOR WESNER: So on behalf of all three missions here, Secretary Kerry, welcome back to Vienna. Thank you for taking the time this morning to be with us. It means a lot to us. It also – I mean, I am especially grateful that you’re here today. Perhaps you could dispel a myth. (Laughter.) There have been some rumors floating around that we’ve been leading our colleagues in Switzerland on that you might prefer to spend time over there rather than here. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Who started this? (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR WESNER: But we know that’s not true because we here in Vienna have the dream team and we know that the Austrians have been great hosts and great partners to us. And last, sir, we haven’t caused you any bodily harm here. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: This is true.

AMBASSADOR WESNER: But we do know our Swiss colleagues have also done a stellar job, so wherever you convene, your presence is felt, appreciated. You are a true inspiration, the way you work. Thank you for that, thank you for everything you do, and thanks to your team, all of you. And all of us, Secretary Kerry, here have, are, and will always remain ready to support you, your team, and our joint mission for a more prosperous, more secure, and more peaceful world.


AMBASSADOR WESNER: So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much, good morning. Now, this – I’m happy to be here without crutches. (Laughter.) I got to tell you, hobbling around trying to see the cathedral and all of these things on crutches was not fun. (Laughter.) But it was great, it was nice to do.

Alexa, thank you. Thank you to you and our bilat mission and thank you, Henry, and Kate, thank you so much for the extraordinary work of the UN mission here and OSCE. Hands are full for everybody. It’s an extraordinary time in diplomacy, quite remarkable when you think about it, between Ukraine, Minsk, Minsk application, Minsk in Nagorno-Karabakh – which we had a meeting on here. And it’s not often that you come in for two days to anywhere and you have two presidents of a country come to try to prevent a war from breaking out – obviously, Armenia and Azerbaijan. And then you have more than 20-plus nations with the UN and other entities, the OIC and so forth, all assembled to try to make peace in another country, Syria. And you also wind up meeting with a whole bunch of countries, almost as many, on Libya trying to stand up a government and figure out what we’re going to do about Daesh and restore some order.

So your mission really was about as consequential over the last two days as I think it gets, in addition to my bilat, sort of one-on-one meeting last night with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia and my meeting with the foreign minister of Iran and so forth. And it presents an enormous logistical challenge, which I’m happy to say you all are now old pros at, because we jammed you all last year and the year before with countless meetings here. So you’ve been very, very much a part of an extraordinary journey that has produced an historic outcome, and that’s something that you can take with you forever, maybe tell – embellish it a little bit for the grandchildren, tell them how you sat in a room and got Zarif to give in to your mighty persuasion. (Laughter.) Whatever you want, folks. (Laughter.)

But really, the – we can’t do it without you. I’ll tell you, yesterday, actually, after the session, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia was in a big room making a phone call and I was in the other room talking to our guys about something we’re working on. And I came out in the big room and his people came up to me and said, “Boy, your people do an amazing job,” and they were just watching everybody break the place down and put the flags away and take all the flag – whatever the – whatever you call the things they stand – sort of they stand in and all those microphones and da-da, da-da and the bunting that surrounds the table and everything. It’s a lot of work.

And I’ve always noticed that. I notice it particularly when we go to the UN mission for UNGA, where we go meeting to meeting to meeting and every room is set up. It has an interpreter facility and people – most people don’t notice that. They sort of take it for granted and they go, “Oh, man, this is always here.” Well, it’s not always there. We have to rent the palace and set it up from scratch and you guys have to plan all the logistics.

So that is why I really am very, very proud to present you with this award. It’s a tri-mission honor – there are three of them, I see, so we’re not going to fight over the one – (laughter) – there’s enough to pass month to month. (Laughter.) But it really is extraordinarily well earned and I can tell you what it says. It says, “A mighty thanks for the support that you gave to myself, to Secretary Moniz, to Under Secretary Sherman, to our whole team for over a two-year period helping to manage the logistics and bring us to a successful conclusion of the JCPOA,” which I am proud to say is working in its technical ways. I wish the flow of funds were easier and the banking thing was easier, but that’s a challenge that Iran in many ways has created for itself and the other choices that it makes, then it’s going to take a little while to work them through.

But all in all, it’s working, and we have prevented the country from having a nuclear weapon and created a historic opening with a nation that we haven’t talked to formally since 1979. So that’s what this award is being given for because we would not have been able to do this without all of you. I know there are a lot more folks because we got (inaudible) 222 of you who work for the embassy and another 200 and some who are local employees, and they ain’t all in the room now. And been to enough conventions and run enough times that I got a pretty quick take on how many people we’re looking at. (Laughter.)

But I really want to thank you honestly, profoundly, and I thank Alexa, Kate, and Henry for their tremendous leadership, and know there is no competition between Geneva and here. (Laughter.) In fact, I don’t – I’ve been to Geneva once in the last year and I’ve been here how many times? (Laughter.) So don’t complain. (Laughter.)

Good luck. It’s my pleasure. Let me make a formal presentation in this spot. It’s here, you can all see it. (Laughter.) Let’s get a nice picture with it up here with all of you standing here. And everybody else, congratulations to you. Thank you for your service to our country. Appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks for providing a place for my guys to work out their energy beating each other up in tennis. They like that. (Laughter.) Thank you all. (Applause.)