U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY
Good afternoon, everybody. I am very, very pleased this afternoon to welcome to the State Department my colleague, Bruno Rodriguez, the foreign minister of Cuba. And I apologize for our being a little bit late, but we were downstairs – we had a lot to talk about, not just about U.S.-Cuba relations but also about the region – and think we had a very constructive conversation. This is the first visit to the Department of State by a Cuban foreign minister since 1958, and today marks as well the resumption of normal diplomatic ties between our countries and the re-opening of our embassies after a rupture that has lasted 54 years.
So it’s an historic day; a day for removing barriers.
(In Spanish) The United States welcomes this new beginning in its relationship with the people and the Government of Cuba. We are determined to live as good neighbors on the basis of mutual respect, and we want all of our citizens – in the U.S. and in Cuba – to look into the future with hope. Therefore we celebrate this day on July the 20th because today we begin to repair what was damaged and to open what has been closed for many years.
This milestone does not signify an end to differences that still separate our governments, but it does reflect the reality that the Cold War ended long ago, and that the interests of both countries are better served by engagement than by estrangement, and that we have begun a process of full normalization that is sure to take time but will also benefit people in both Cuba and the United States.
This shared resolve to look ahead is what drove our conversation today and what has brought us to this moment. The foreign minister and I touched on a wide range of issues of mutual concern including cooperation on law enforcement, counternarcotics, telecommunications, the internet, environmental issues, human rights, including trafficking in persons. And of course, we also discussed the opening of our embassies.
We want to make sure that those embassies are able to function fully, and I am confident that diplomats from both countries will have the freedom to travel and to converse with citizens from all walks of life. To help lead that effort, I am encouraged that we have a first-rate embassy team in Cuba, led by our charge, Ambassador Jeff De Laurentis, who is one of our finest and most experienced public servants. And I congratulate Foreign Minister Rodriguez on his – this morning’s opening of the Cuban Embassy here in Washington. On August 14th, I look forward to making my first trip as Secretary of State to Cuba and holding a comparable ceremony at our embassy in Havana.
Before closing, I want to thank our colleagues from Switzerland for the vital role that they have played for many years as the protecting power for what has obviously proven to be a much longer time than originally anticipated.
I thank our friends from around the hemisphere who have urged us – in some cases, for decades – to restore our diplomatic ties and who have warmly welcomed our decision to do so.
And I am grateful for the outstanding leadership of Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson and for the efforts of the many U.S. and Cuban representatives whose hard work made this day possible.
And I want to acknowledge the commitment of all who care about U.S.-Cuba relations, whether they agree with the decision to normalize or not. Change is rarely easy, especially when earlier positions have been so deeply ingrained and so profoundly felt. But although we can and must learn from the past, nothing is more futile than trying to live in the past. President Obama believes – and so do I – that our citizens benefit far more from policies that aim to shape a better future.
There is, after all, nothing to be lost – and much to be gained – by encouraging travel between our nations, the free flow of information and ideas, the resumption of commerce, and the removal of obstacles that have made it harder for families to visit their loved ones.
Make no mistake, the process of fully normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba will go on. It may be long and complex. But along the way, we are sure to encounter a bump here and there and moments even of frustration. Patience will be required. But that is all the more reason to get started now on this journey, this long overdue journey.
Today, with the opening of our embassies and the visit of the foreign minister, we are taking an historic and long overdue step in the right direction. To keep moving forward, both governments must proceed in a spirit of openness and mutual respect.
I can assure the world, including the people of Cuba, that the United States will do its part.
(In Spanish) I can assure all of you, including the Cuban people, that the United States will do its part.
And now, it is my pleasure to yield the floor to our guest, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
CUBAN FOREIGN MINISTER BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARILLA
Thank you, thank you. Good afternoon. Sorry for being late. We have just had a constructive and respectful meeting with Secretary John Kerry. With the Secretary of State, we had an exchange on the issues discussed by Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama during their historical encounter at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the current status of the bilateral relations, and the progress achieved since the announcements of December 17th, 2014, including Cuba’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and the expansion of official exchanges on issues of common interest, and the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of embassies.
I conveyed the recognition of our people and government to President Obama for his determination to work for the lifting of the blockade, for urging Congress to eliminate it, and for his willingness to adopt executive measures that modify the implementation of some aspects of this policy. Their scope is still limited, but these are steps taken in the right direction.
Likewise, we have emphasized that, in the meantime, the President of the United States can continue using his executive powers to pay a significant contribution to the dismantling of the blockade, not to pursue changes in Cuba, something that falls under our exclusive sovereignty, but to attend to the interests of U.S. citizens.
I emphasized that the totally lifting of the blockade, the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantánamo, as well as the full respect for the Cuban sovereignty and the compensation to our people for human and economic damages are crucial to be able to move towards the normalization of relations.
We both ratified our interest in normalizing bilateral relations, knowing that this will be a long and complex process, which will require the willingness of both countries. There are profound differences between Cuba and the United States with regard to our views about the exercise of human rights by all persons all over the world, and also in issues related to international law, which will inevitably persist. But we strongly believe that we can both cooperate and coexist in a civilized way, based on the respect for these differences and the development of a constructive dialogue oriented to the wellbeing of our countries and peoples, and this continent, and the entire world.
I expressed to the Secretary of State that he will be welcome in Cuba on the occasion of the ceremony to reopen the U.S. embassy in Havana.
So, Mr. Secretary, I will be waiting for you. (In Spanish)
(Via translator) We have just had a constructive and respectful meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry. It was particularly significant to see that the Cuban flag was raised for the first time after 54 years. We would not have been able to make it through these days without the wise conduction of the historical leadership of the revolution, headed by Fidel Castro, and without the resistance and self-determination of the Cuban people and its firm determination to continue walking down the path that was sovereignly chosen.
We have been able to make it through this stage also thanks to the fraternal support received from Latin America and the Caribbean, the overwhelming majority of the countries of the world, many U.S. and Cuban patriotic citizens who reside in these countries, and who persevered for so many years in their efforts so that Cuba and the United States could have better relations.
With the Secretary of State we have an exchange on the issues discussed by Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama during their historical encounter at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the current status of the bilateral relations and the progress achieved since the announcements of December the 17th, including Cuba’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism – a place where never Cuba should have been included – and the historic meeting between Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama on issues of common interest.
I conveyed the recognition of our people and government to President Obama for his determination to work for the lifting of the blockade, for having urged Congress to eliminate it once and for all, and for his willingness to adopt executive measures that modify the implementation of some aspects of this policy. And although their scope is limited, these are steps taken in the right direction.
We both emphasized that the President of the U.S. can continue to use his executive powers to pay a significant contribution to the modification of aspects of the implementation of the blockade with the purpose of eliminating it, not seeking changes in Cuba, which falls under the exclusive sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba and Cubans, but rather to attend to the best interests of the American citizens.
We have insisted that the total lifting of the blockade is essential to move on towards the normalization of relations, of bilateral relations, as well as the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantánamo, as well as the full respect for the Cuban sovereignty, as well as the compensation to our people for human and economic damages.
We reiterated our invitation to all U.S. citizens to exercise their right to travel to Cuba, as they do to the rest of the world, and to the companies of that country to take advantage on an equal footing of the opportunities offered by Cuba.
The Secretary of State and I ratified our interest in normalizing bilateral relations, knowing that this will be a long and complex process which will require the willingness of both countries. I reiterated to the Secretary of State the Cuban Government’s willingness to move on in the process towards the normalization of relations with the United States on the basis of respect, equality, sovereign equality without prejudice to the independence and sovereignty of Cuba, and without any interference in our internal affairs.
It is true that there are profound differences between the governments of Cuba and the United States with regard to our views about the exercise of human rights by all citizens and in the whole planet, and also when it comes to international law, which will inevitably persist. But we strongly believe that we can both cooperate and coexist in a civilized way, based on the respect for these differences and the development of a constructive dialogue oriented to the wellbeing of our countries and peoples, this continent, and the entire world.
I expressed to the Secretary of State that he will be welcome in Havana on the occasion of the ceremony to reopen the U.S. embassy. So I will be waiting for you, Secretary, at any moment, and I thank you for your hospitality in Washington. Thank you.