(Bloomberg) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s broken leg, sustained in a bicycling accident, could complicate though not derail efforts to reach a nuclear accord with Iran by a June 30 deadline.
The accident in eastern France Sunday, which forced Kerry to cut short a trip to Europe, will limit his travel as the U.S. and other world powers enter a crucial stretch of negotiations on an agreement that would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.
Three former State Department officials said Kerry is sure to find ways to keep negotiations on track, even if off his feet for weeks.
“John Kerry is the Energizer Bunny in foreign policy,” said Aaron David Miller, who has advised secretaries of state of both political parties. “Nothing is going to keep this guy down.”
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, 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 kilometers (25 miles) by medical helicopter to University Hospital in Geneva, where his injury was evaluated.
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Kerry had both hips replaced several years ago, and will return to Boston for treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital with the doctor who did the earlier surgeries, 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’s return, initially planned for Sunday evening, was postponed until Monday because “it was sensible for him to remain in the hospital for observation overnight for purely precautionary measures,” Kirby said in a later statement. Kerry “continues to be in great spirits and active” and has talked by phone with President Barack Obama and others, Kirby said.
To fly home, Kerry will use a medically outfitted aircraft “to ensure he remains comfortable and stable throughout the flight,” Kirby said. “Its use is nothing more than a prudent medical step on the advice of physicians.”
While Kerry may be able to work from a hospital bed and from home while recuperating, his injury could complicate negotiations on Iran by limiting his globe-trotting.
Limited travel may be possible “in a matter of weeks,” although precautions would be needed to make it safe, said Dr. David Teuscher, president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Kerry may need to use a walker or crutches for the next six to eight weeks and may not be able to resume a full schedule and walk independently for about three months, said Teuscher, a surgeon based in Beaumont, Texas.
Since taking office in 2013, Kerry has chalked up more than 819,000 miles in visits to 63 countries, according to the State Department.