GENEVA – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cut short a trip to Europe to return home to Boston after breaking his right thigh bone in a bicycling accident Sunday in eastern France.
The accident came as the U.S. — led by Kerry — five other world powers and Iran have resumed efforts to reach a nuclear accord before a June 30 deadline. It is unclear whether the accident will affect those talks. The accord would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.
The top U.S. diplomat met with his Iranian counterpart, foreign minister Javad Zarif, for about six hours in Geneva on Saturday. The pair’s next meeting was expected to be in about two weeks, which would give Kerry some time to start what could be a long recovery.
Technical experts will hold talks in the meantime, starting in Vienna within a few days. As was the case when the preliminary deal was made in Lausanne, Switzerland, in April, negotiations are expected to peak as the deadline nears.
Kerry’s injury is unlikely to derail the talks, said Aaron David Miller, who has advised secretaries of state of both political parties.
“John Kerry is the Energizer Bunny in foreign policy,” said Miller, now a vice president at the Wilson Center, a policy research group in Washington. “Nothing is going to keep this guy down. He’s indefatigable.”
Kerry, 71, fell from his bike, apparently after hitting a curb along the roadside near the town of Scionzier, a State Department official said on condition of not being further identified. The avid cyclist was transported about 40 km (25 miles) by medical helicopter to University Hospital in Geneva, where his injury was evaluated.
“Given the injury is near the site of his prior hip surgery, he will return to Boston today to seek treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital with his doctor who did the prior surgery,” John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement. “The secretary is stable and never lost consciousness, his injury is not life-threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery.”
Kerry was scheduled to fly Sunday evening Geneva time on a medically outfitted aircraft “to ensure he remains comfortable and stable throughout the flight,” Kirby said in a later statement. “Its use is nothing more than a prudent medical step on the advice of physicians.”
Kirby confirmed that Kerry broke his right femur. The bone is commonly referred to as the thigh bone. The longest and strongest in the human body, it usually takes considerable force — such as the impact of a car crash — to break, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Kerry had been scheduled to fly to Madrid Sunday. He was also scheduled to meet with other members of the coalition against the Islamic State militant group on Tuesday in Paris. Kerry plans to participate in the Paris meeting “remotely,” Kirby said.
Kerry’s injury, while unfortunate, could prove helpful to the Obama administration if talks need to be extended beyond the deadline set by negotiators, Miller said. “June 30 was probably never a realistic date for conclusion,” he said. “You now have a completely valid explanation, should one be required, as to why June 30 won’t be met.”
The secretary was enjoying a rare free morning after his meeting with Zarif at the time of his accident. He fell on a stretch of road that in some years makes up part of the Tour de France bicycle race course.