John Kerry was publicly sworn in as Secretary of State Wednesday, vowing to work for peace but pledging to do what is needed to stand up to "extremism, terrorism, chaos and evil."
"I am proud to take on this job because I want to work for peace and because the values and ideals of our nation are really what represents the best of the possibilities of life here on earth," Kerry told the audience, according to AFP.
He warned, however, that "while my preference is for peaceful resolution to conflict, my journey has also taught me that when remedies are exhausted, we must be prepared to defend our cause and do what is necessary to stand up to extremism, terrorism, chaos and evil."
Kerry was first sworn in as secretary of state at a small, private ceremony on Capitol Hill on Friday, less than two hours after Hillary Clinton stepped down from the job.
On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to Kerry at a ceremony attended by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
Other senators, including John McCain, were among the audience, listening as Biden praised Kerry's integrity and his credentials to be America's top diplomat.
Kerry's speech was short on any specific foreign policy priorities, although he dismissed critics who maintain America should turn inward as it deals with its own domestic and economic problems.
"This is not a time for America to retreat. This is a time for us to continue to lead," Kerry said, according to AFP.
The world was facing "unparalleled technology, unprecedented growth in the number of young people," as well as "unleashed sectarian strife and religious extremism," he warned.
"Unless we stay vigilant, these forces threaten to unravel whole nation states and create greater pockets of instability than we have seen in recent times. This is our challenge."
He urged the United States "to join with other nations, to pool our resources, our talents, our thinking, and to create order where there is none and to fix, or try to fix, what is broken."
On Sunday, Kerry called Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. According to an Abbas spokesperson, Kerry told the PA chief that he expected to meet him in the near future in order to discuss restarting negotiations with Israel.
A day earlier, Kerry called President Shimon Peres, getting an update on efforts by Binyamin Netanyahu to build a new coalition, and “exchanging views” on regional matters, Kerry's office said.
After he spoke to Peres, Kerry also phoned Netanyahu on Sunday evening. During the conversation, Netanyahu told Kerry that his new government will be committed to peace and would strive to launch “a sober and responsible diplomatic process.”
Reports have indicated that Kerry, who was officially sworn into office on Friday at a private ceremony on Capitol Hill, plans to visit Israel and Egypt as part of his first trip in his new role.
The trip, which is likely to signify the heightened determination of the Obama administration to promote peace in the region, could take place as soon as mid-February.
Kerry’s trip is seen as a preliminary visit before Obama himself visits Israel. On Tuesday, the White House confirmed reports in the Israeli media that Obama would be visiting Israel, for the first time as president.
Obama will also visit the Palestinian Authority and Jordan but the exact date of his visit is yet to be announced.
Last week, as he spoke to U.S. lawmakers meeting to confirm his nomination, Kerry hinted he has a plan up his sleeve to rekindle the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority but warned he was worried the door for a "two-state solution".
"We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward," said Kerry.
He also said that it is vital for the United States to confront immediate and dangerous challenges including terrorism and the threat from Iran's nuclear program.