London: John Kerry stressed on the "special relationship" between the US and UK as he made London the first stop on his maiden overseas tour as US Secretary of State.
He held breakfast talks with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10, Downing Street today before meeting foreign secretary William Hague at the Foreign Office, where they addressed a joint press conference.
"When you think of everything that binds the US and Great Britain — our common values, our long shared history, our ties of family and friendship, there is a reason why we call this the special relationship, or as President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron wrote, 'a partnership of the heart'," Kerry, 69, said.
"In the 20th century our countries fought for freedom side by side and fought for survival together in war, we thrived together in peace and we stood together time and time again in order to meet the world's great challenges. "In the 21st century, we may face a new and more complex set of challenges, but I absolutely know that we face them together just as we did in the last century. And together, it is absolutely clear that our partnership remains stronger than ever," he added.
The agenda during the British leg of his nine-country trip included efforts to restart the Middle East peace process, along with a proposed EU-US free trade agreement, as well as the Syrian civil war and ongoing tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Kerry, however, refused to support the outcome of next month’s referendum in the Falkland Islands on whether they should remain British.
"I'm not going to comment, nor is the President, on a referendum that has yet to take place, hasn't taken place. Our position on the Falklands has not changed. "The US recognizes de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the question of party sovereignty claims. "We support cooperation between UK and Argentina on practical matters," he said.
Hague, his British counterpart, described the relationship between UK and the US as an "indispensable alliance" and said Monday’s talks were "detailed and very thorough". "Top of our agenda was the Middle East, including the importance we both attach to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said.
Kerry, who officially took over from Hilary Clinton earlier this month, will be heading off to Germany as part of the 11-day "listening tour" covering Berlin, Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha. The issues to be addressed by America’s top diplomat will include Syria, Mali and North Korea. According to senior US State Department officials, Kerry's decision to make his first trip to Europe, unlike his predecessor Hillary Clinton who chose to tour countries in Asia and the Pacific, sends a strong signal to America's closest European partners.
He is keen to map out a new era in American diplomacy after taking over from Clinton as the 68th Secretary of State. The former Massachusetts senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate arrived here late on Sunday as the Obama administration tried to salvage a Syrian conference that he plans to attend this week in Rome. Some members of the sharply divided Syrian Opposition Council are threatening to boycott the meeting. Kerry has said he plans to use the trip to propose ideas on persuading the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.