WASHINGTON (AP) — The second-highest ranking American diplomat is retiring this fall after a 32-year career in the foreign service that included stints as U.S. ambassador to Russia and Jordan, top Middle East hand and leader of a team that held secret talks with Iran.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns will step down in October, having several times delayed retirement at the request of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. Burns is just the second career diplomat to hold the No. 2 job at the State Department. In 2012, he was tasked with leading a small team of U.S. officials in covert discussions with Iran that resulted in the current negotiations over that country’s nuclear program.
“I have relied on him for candid advice and sensitive diplomatic missions,” Obama said Friday of Burns in a statement released by the White House. “He has been a skilled adviser, consummate diplomat, and inspiration to generations of public servants.”
Kerry hailed Burns for his “enormous impact and influence in untold ways and myriad issues.”
“It’s not just where he’s served, it’s who he is and what he’s done,” Kerry said. “This guy is the real deal. ”
Burns joined the foreign service in 1982 and quickly rose within its ranks. In addition to the deputy post and his ambassadorial positions, he also served as undersecretary of state for political affairs, the State Department’s No. 3 post, and director of policy planning.