John Kerry awarded France’s highest honour
United States – Ceremony to award the insignia of Grand Officier in the Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur to Mr John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States – Speech by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)
Paris, 10 December 2016
Cher John Kerry,
You often say France is America’s oldest friend and its first ally. This was true when the French fought alongside the American people for the independence of the United States. It was also true when American soldiers crossed the Atlantic twice in the last century to liberate France and Europe. And it’s still true today, as our countries stand side by side to defend freedom, peace and democracy around the world.
You’re a lover of Paris, a regular and loyal visitor, well thought of by those who come into contact with you.
A French speaker and Francophile, you’re certainly the most “French” of senior American officials. This fondness for our country was also held against you – at any rate by some people – during the 2004 campaign, when there was a craze for attempting the impossible: to replace “French fries” with “freedom fries”. But it didn’t work.
This great closeness to France has facilitated our discussions in recent years about handling crises in the Middle East and on Europe’s borders. Those who have got to know you in the course of their foreign ministerial duties have thought particularly highly of you, and I’m one of them.
Your commitment to the climate agreement was crucial. The Paris Agreement, ratified by our two countries, came into force on 4 November. It’s a major, historic success, an essential success for mankind’s future which must be protected. Our two countries can be proud to have contributed to it.
Your personal contribution has also been decisive in strengthening the cooperation between France and the United States in very many areas, such as the fight against terrorism, particularly in the Sahel. Over the past four years, you have worked to make this world safer by leading, with the Europeans, the nuclear negotiations on Iran, which have been a success for diplomacy too.
On other issues, people are struck by your sincere commitment. In many conversations about the Middle East, I’ve always appreciated your clear-sighted analysis on the eroding of the solution of two states, Israel and Palestine, which we would so like to see finally living side by side permanently in peace and security. In Syria and Iraq we worked together to combat Daesh [so-called ISIL] as part of the coalition.
We shall never resign ourselves to the tragedy the people of that region have been experiencing for five years now, as we showed this morning during the meeting which was held here at the Quai d’Orsay.
In Europe and at its borders, coordinated action between Europeans and Americans is essential if we want to avoid drifting back towards the tensions of another era, which no longer reflect either the modern world or our interests. (…)./.