Washington: In damage control mode, US admitted that it should have sent a higher profile official to the Paris unity march, but said President Barack Obama could not go because of security considerations.
Secretary of State John Kerry too could not make it to the anti-terrorism rally attended by over 40 world leaders as he was on a pre-planned trip to India “doing some important work representing US interests there” the White House said Monday.
“I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there,” spokesman Josh Earnest said responding to criticism over the absence of Obama, vice president Joe Biden or a high tanking US official from the rally.
Earnest said the rally was conceived on Friday evening and did not allow enough time to pull off the security feat required for Obama to march amid the public, which attracted more than three-and-a-half million people.
Earnest said it posed “significant security challenges.”
Asked why was it not possible for Kerry to make the trip instead, the spokesperson said: “What I can tell you is that certainly 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,” Earnest said referring to his attendance at the Vibrant Gujarat summit in Ahmedabad and his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Kerry, he noted, would be going to Paris after his trip to India and Pakistan where “he actually visited the school in Peshawar that was the site of the terrible terrorist attack just a couple of weeks ago.”
At the State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said “I certainly don’t disagree with my colleague at the White House” that US should have sent someone with a higher profile, but added “There was no logistical way Secretary Kerry could go.”
“He was already on his way, first of all, to India…We have long committed for,” she said. “Obviously India is an incredibly important economic partner.
“This was an economic conference. And then of course, once he was in India, he was going to attend this because he thinks it’s a very important relationship. So there was just really no way for him to get
there,” Harf said.
Kerry, she said, “did not want to cancel an important trip to India about economics with the new prime minister of India.”
“As you know, when the Secretary is going someplace, particularly on a trip like India that we’ve had planned for a long time around an event with Prime Minister Modi, that’s very hard to turn off, and he didn’t want to,” she said.
Asked if Kerry had offered to go to Paris, Harf said: It’s not about offering. It’s about a discussion about who should attend. And I think, because everyone knew about the Secretary’s trip to India and knew how important it was, that it was just not an option.”
“There were discussions internally about who should go from the US Government. The Secretary was never an option given he was going to India for this important economic conference with Prime Minister Modi,” she said.
More than a million people took to the streets of Paris Sunday to pay tribute to the 17 victims of last week’s terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine for publishing cartoons of prophet Mohammed.