President Barack Obama's new international-affairs point man John Kerry called key allies – including Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird – on the weekend to talk terrorism, the worsening Syrian war and the vexed Keystone pipeline.
In calls to Mexican, Israeli, Turkish and Canadian counterparts, the new U.S. Secretary of State, a Vietnam veteran who turned anti-war before serving decades in the Senate, set the stage for Mr. Obama's expected shift to foreign-policy priorities in his second term.
Mr. Kerry, who played a little pickup hockey around Washington until a few years ago, also managed to chat Bruins and Senators with Mr. Baird, according to Canadian officials. The Saturday call came before the Bruins won that night in Toronto and the Senators lost Sunday in Montreal.
Mr. Baird told Mr. Kerry he was "always welcome to come to Ottawa for some Sens-Bruins' hockey diplomacy," according to Mr. Baird's spokesman, Rick Roth.
Whether the Canadian government's overtime lobbying to persuade the Obama administration to give the go-ahead to a controversial pipeline that would funnel 830,000 barrels of carbon-laden Alberta oil sands crude to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast will win over Mr. Kerry remains unknown.
But the two men talked Keystone, as well as Iran and other global security issues. "The Minister and the Secretary discussed the situations in Syria and Mali, as well as Canada's grave concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions and the deteriorating human-rights situation," Mr. Roth said Sunday.
The two men "agreed to stay in touch" on Keystone, according to U.S. officials. Mr. Kerry, considered something of a hawk on environmental issues, told his confirmation hearings in the Senate that he intended to persuade Americans of the need to cease venting greenhouse gases or face grave new sorts of security threats from global warming. He is expected to get a revised environmental impact statement on Keystone next month. Many see that decision as a key test of the President's inaugural pledge to take action on man-made climate change.
Mr. Kerry, the former head of the Senate foreign-relations committee, replaced Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State on Friday.
Among others on his early call list were Israeli President Shimon Peres and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu whom he thanked "for the excellent bilateral co-operation after Friday's terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Ankara," according to Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department.