This morning, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived at NATO to take his seat for the first time at the North Atlantic Council, the governing body of NATO, as ministers of the 28 Allies converged to discuss some of the world's most sensitive questions. Secretary Kerry strode past the cameras and photographers, as journalists pleaded with him in French to make a comment. "Apres, après," Kerry said, "afterwards."
The atmosphere inside the meeting room was somber, as developments in Syria and Korea were on the morning agenda. Just before the meeting began, NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen told the journalists outside, "We can see that the situation in Syria is getting worse. We cannot ignore the risks of a regional spill-over with possible implications for Allied security. NATO has come to the support of Turkey with the rapid deployment of Patriot missiles, but we must continue to remain vigilant." The NATO meeting was a unique opportunity for the Foreign Ministers of Europe and North America to share information and ideas on the crisis in Syria.
The second meeting of the day was the NATO-Russia Council, attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The Council was briefed on the recent series of meetings between high-level U.S. and Russian diplomats in Moscow, and possibilities for an intensified NATO-Russia dialogue that could follow from that. Afterwards, Secretary Kerry took the opportunity to meet individually with Minister Lavrov, with whom he has already met several times in recent weeks, to continue the search for common ground.
Secretary Kerry's schedule inside the NATO HQ building was, as always, choreographed to use every minute. Between other meetings he sat down with the Greek Foreign Minister, and signed an agreement on the control of nuclear materials with the foreign minister of Lithuania.
Late in the afternoon, Secretary Kerry gave his first press conference in NATO's Luns Theater. He began by calling Europe "America's partner of first resort," and then talked about how NATO would transform its mission in Afghanistan from combat to training by the end of 2014. "Afghanistan will not again, ever, become a haven for terrorists," Kerry declared.
Turning to the question of Syria, Kerry said that there was no specific role for NATO in Syria right now, but that all the Allies agreed that "the mass murder taking place outside of Damascus was unacceptable," and there had to be a political solution. "The U.S. will continue supporting the opposition coalition," he said, with the goal of achieving "a non-sectarian democracy that respects all human rights." After answering questions, the Secretary apologetically excused himself and moved to the next meeting with the NATO Allies and partners working together in Afghanistan.
In his first day inside the NATO headquarters, the Secretary showed that he is very much at home in the Alliance. Secretary Kerry's day won't end until late this evening, and tomorrow his schedule is booked with meetings with Afghan President Karzai and the leaders of Pakistan. Stay tuned to DipNote and @USNATO and @USAmbNATO on Twitter for more from his visit.