Kerry’s previous rounds of meetings with foreign ministers had been open to the press. And the meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister should have been far less controversial than his meetings with foreign ministers in Asia where the North Korean crisis was still underway.
The meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister should have been open to the press as well. But then suddenly, it wasn’t.
A meeting Secretary of State John Kerry was to hold with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal was abruptly closed to press coverage Tuesday morning.
The State Department provided no reason for the change, which was announced just 15 minutes before the scheduled 10 A.M. session, but media reports have said that a Saudi national in the U.S. on a student visa is a “person of interest” to investigators probing the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday.
“Apologies for short notice,” the State Department’s press office told reporters as it announced the change. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a query about the closure of the meeting, which had been scheduled to include a so-called “camera spray” at the top of the session.
The Saudis tend to be aggressive in protecting their nationals, even when they are involved in terrorism. And Kerry clearly is trying to avoid any kind of public exchange or questions at the topic.
The abrupt shutdown suggests that the State Department left the window open as long as possible in the hopes that the Saudi national would become a non-issue. The shutdown suggests that whatever direction the FBI investigation is headed in, its people are unable to tell State that the Saudi national in custody is not a player. Otherwise Kerry could have easily shot down the question.
It also suggests that the Saudis might want to press Kerry privately on their usual agenda of exculpating Saudi Arabia for its terrorist backing and transferring over the Saudi national to their custody.