In a rare admission, the White House said the US should have sent “someone with a higher profile” to join world leaders in the unity march in Paris but maintained Secretary of State John Kerry skipped the rally as he was preoccupied with “some important work” in India.
“I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there,” White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, told reporters a day after the rally, which was attended by the US Ambassador to France.
He was responding to criticism Kerry and US President Barack Obama have been facing for not being present at the anti-terror march over the weekend in Paris, which was attended by over a million people.
Defending the decision of the top American diplomat to skip the rally, Earnest said: “The Secretary of State is somebody who has very important responsibilities himself. He was in India this past weekend doing some important work representing US interests there.”
US officials said Kerry could not skip his pre-scheduled trip to Ahmedabad to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Summit and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“It (India-US ties) is a really important relationship and it would not have been desirable to skip the India trip,” a senior State Department official said last week.
From Ahmedabad, Kerry travelled to Islamabad to hold talks with Pakistani leadership on a range of issues, of which counterterrorism is one of the most significant ones.
“At the conclusion of his trip to India, he made an unannounced visit to Pakistan, where he is right now. While in Pakistan, he actually visited the school in Peshawar that was the site of the terrible terrorist attack just a couple of weeks ago.
“I think the secretary of state’s visit to this school demonstrates the American people’s solidarity with the people of Pakistan as they face down extremism and violence and terrorism in their own country,” Earnest said.
Obama wanted to attend the Paris march but could not due to security considerations, he said, adding that the short notice at which it was organised was also one of the factors.
“I think the (US) President in the same way that high profile representation at the march and the president’s decision to go to the French embassy in Washington shows US solidarity with the French people as they confront terrorism,” Earnest said.