Requiring surgery, Kerry hopes for in-person role at Iran talks endgame

US secretary of state flies home for treatment of femur broken in bicycle accident, could be grounded for weeks.

June 2, 2015 00:30
2 minute read.
Geneva, Switzerland

US Secretary of State John Kerry is seen in silhouette as he deplanes against an evening sky after arriving in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 29, 2015. (photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)


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WASHINGTON – After sustaining a serious injury to his right leg in a bicycle accident in Switzerland the previous day, US Secretary of State John Kerry flew home to Boston on Monday, where he is scheduled to undergo surgery.

To ensure his comfort en route to the US, a C-17 military transport aircraft – fully equipped for his medical needs – was flown to Geneva from its base in Ramstein, Germany, to transport the secretary. Kerry, who was joined by his Massachusetts doctor and a cadre of concerned colleagues from the State Department, left Switzerland “in good spirits,” according to Marie Harf, a senior adviser to the secretary.

Kerry is committed to “an aggressive, ambitious and responsible recovery schedule,” she said.

So, too, is the secretary committed to a June 30 deadline for a final deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

“I want to be very clear: his injury does not change that,” Harf said.

Kerry wants to be in the negotiating room for the endgame, she affirmed, noting his team’s commitment to a conclusion by the end of June. But she would not speculate on where and precisely how the top diplomat would pull it off.

The secretary’s doctors will speak to his condition after he is treated further in Boston.

Harf declined to comment on whether the US would consider inviting the Iranian delegation to Washington, Boston, or possibly the United Nations headquarters in New York, where talks have taken place on the sidelines in the past.

“I think it’s premature,” Harf continued. She said that Kerry spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif by phone after the accident.

The injury – a fracture to his right femur, in the vicinity of a previous hip surgery – was not life threatening, State Department spokesman R.-Adm. John Kirby said. But several leaders in the US medical community are characterizing the event as significant.

One such leader told The Jerusalem Post that, based on information publicly available on the secretary’s condition, international travel for the talks will likely prove highly problematic.

“It takes a tremendous amount of force to break your femur,” said Michael Bronson, chairman of orthopedic surgery at Mt. Sinai-Roosevelt– Mt. Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital, who has not reviewed the case or received the secretary as a patient. “And with the hip issue, it compounds the complexity of the injury.”

“On occasion, the fracture – when it occurs in proximity to the hip replacement – causes the hip replacement to move,” Bronson said. “The need for surgery would not be an emergency – it’s usually done within 24-48 hours.”

Bronson advised not to read into the fact that Kerry did not lose consciousness and was permitted to fly home to Boston by his doctors.

Bronson said he thought it “highly, highly unlikely” Kerry would be fit to fly within four weeks. “After hip surgery, there is a higher predisposition to developing blood clots in your leg which can break off and cause pulmonary embolism,” he said.

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