TIME White House

Top Career Diplomat William Burns Will Retire

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearings On Syria And Ukraine
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee March 6, 2014 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee—Getty Images

William Burns, who was instrumental in behind-the-scenes negotiations with Iran, will stay on until October, raising the specter that he will again be a key player if formal talks for a nuclear agreement fall through by the July deadline

The State Department said Friday that its second in command will retire in October.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, a career diplomat who led the White House’s behind-the-scene efforts to bring Iran to the negotiating table, is only the second career Foreign Service officer to hold his post.

He has twice delayed his departure, including the second time as the request of President Barack Obama, according to the New York Times.

“Since I took office, I have relied on him for candid advice and sensitive diplomatic missions – he has been a skilled advisor, consummate diplomat, and inspiration to generations of public servants,” Obama said in a statement. “The country is stronger for Bill’s service.

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