Secretary of State John Kerry visits campus, meets with foreign ministers

Secretary of State John Kerry gives opening remarks in a meeting with the Quintet foreign ministers in Ballou Hall on Sept. 24. (Max Lalanne / The Tufts Daily)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived on campus Saturday morning for a meeting hosted by The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Tisch College of Civic Life with the foreign ministers of Germany, France, the United Kingdom (UK), Italy and the European Union (EU). The meeting, which took place at 11:30 a.m. at Ballou Hall, was preceded by a reception at Gifford House with University President Anthony Monaco, several university officials and 30 undergraduate and Fletcher School students.

The group of diplomats included Kerry, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini.

From Gifford House, the group made its way to Ballou Hall. On the way, Kerry waved to a group of Tufts student protesters and said, “Hello SEIU,” referencing the Service Employees International Union to which Tufts janitors, who are in the process of renegotiating their contract with C&W Services, belong. The protestors held a sign quoting Kerry about his commitment to the middle class and then asked, “Will you join Tufts janitors in fighting for a fair contract?”

After gathering for a photo, the six diplomats seated themselves around a conference table where Kerry gave a short speech welcoming the officials to Boston and to campus before laying out what they would be discussing at the closed meeting to follow.

“We really appreciate you taking this moment to work through particularly Syria, Ukraine, Russia, the challenges of countering violent extremism [and] the work we need to do to bring the climate agreement in course,” Kerry said. “So we have our work cut out for us.”

In addition, Kerry said that the assembled foreign ministers would be discussing the Iran nuclear deal, the challenges of the UK’s vote to withdraw from the EU and the need to preserve European unity.

“We’ll also have a chance to share thoughts about the economic chances going forward, particularly as we navigate through the shoals of Brexit and try to keep Europe as strong and united as possible, and make sure that the United Kingdom is in a position to in fact fully deliver on its intention to be even more of a force in the context of these kinds of challenges we face,” he said.

Kerry highlighted the common sense and rationality of the gathered countries over the past 25 years and emphasized how these traits will help the nations reach common goals.

“Frankly, we share a set of values that you just cannot underestimate in terms of the leverage that has and the force that that has when we come together to coordinate our activities,” he said.

Kerry brought his statements to a close by condemning the continued violence in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, and calling on Russia to be a more cooperative member of the international community.

“Russia needs to set an example, not a precedent. An unacceptable precedent, I might add, for the entire world,” he said. “We also stand absolutely united for a democratic Ukraine, another place where we call on Russia to cooperate and move forward with a peaceful resolution.”