We were all waiting for lunch to finish and Secretary Kerry to come striding through the ornate double doors that lead into the "Salon de l'Horloge" with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Built by Napoleon III in 1855, "ornate" doesn't begin to describe the Salon de l'Horloge, whose antique clock reminded all that the presser was now 45 minutes late. Framed in the floor to ceiling windows of the Quai d'Orsay was postcard Paris: “bateaux mouches” were plying the flooded Seine, and the elongated domes of Sacre Coeur could be seen on Montmartre in the distance, still showing traces of snow from a few days earlier.
Earlier that morning, the Secretary had stopped to shake hands with the motorcycle escort parked near the Christian Louboutin shop on Rue Faubourg St. Honore as he walked to the Ambassador's Residence after his meeting at Elysee Palace with President Hollande. At the meet and greet with the Embassy community at the residence that followed, he told anecdotes about his time in France, thanked us all for our service to country--and clearly meant it.
The room suddenly went silent as senior staff began filing in and Secretary Kerry and Minister Fabius stepped up to their respective podiums. Fabius warmly welcomed his new American counterpart, and ran down the list of important issues of the day -- Syria, Mali, Iran.
Secretary Kerry launched into spontaneous remarks in fluent French. "We just finished one of those wonderful French lunches that have been drawing Americans to Paris for centuries. Of course, it's a privilege to share any meal with Laurent. He is a trusted friend, a steadfast ally, and a valued partner. And I would like to thank him for all of these. France, as you know, is the oldest ally of the United States, so we would like to thank you also for that. And now I will speak in English, because otherwise I would not be allowed to return back home.” As the laughter died down, the Secretary moved on to the pressing business of the day. The tone was that of an old friend returning to a trusted place, and laying the ground for the serious work ahead, from Syria to the Sahel to a new trade partnership.
Related Content: Follow Secretary of State John Kerry's travel to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, February 24-March 6, 2013, on www.state.gov.