Press Availability With Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Roberta S. Jacobson
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Dean Acheson Auditorium
February 27, 2015
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for being here. Today, February 27th, 2015, U.S. and Cuban officials met in Washington to discuss the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. The foreign ministry’s director general for U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, led the Cuban delegation, and I led the delegation for the United States. We view reestablishing diplomatic relations and reopening embassies as critical early steps in the longer-term process of normalizing relations more than half a century after we severed diplomatic relations.
Today was productive and encouraging. In open, honest, and sometimes challenging yet always respectful conversation, we addressed the requirements of each side and the differences we identified in our first discussion in Havana a month ago, and we made meaningful progress towards resolving them. While cognizant that serious disagreements between our governments remain, I am pleased to report that today we saw the type of constructive exchange that advances us toward a more productive diplomatic relationship.
This spirit of exchange is also evident in the events of the coming weeks. Next week, Cuba will send two delegations for separate consultations on trafficking in persons and civil aviation. Next month, a delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy Ambassador Danny Sepulveda will travel to Havana to work with the Cuban Government on increasing its capacity for greater internet connectivity to better support access to information by the Cuban people. Also in March, an interagency delegation will travel to Cuba to exchange ideas and information about recent U.S. regulatory changes. We agreed to meet at the end of March to discuss the structure of our human rights dialogue.
Without ignoring challenges that remain, we are committed to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, which will allow us to more effectively represent U.S. interests and increase engagement with the Cuban people. Today’s discussion was an important step in that direction. I look forward to continuing my discussions with Director General Vidal. Thank you very much, and I’ll be pleased to take your questions.
MR. RATHKE: All right, thank you. The first question goes to Andrea Mitchell from NBC.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Sorry to – can you tell us, on a separate issue, which I understand is separate as far as the United States is concerned, what progress can be made on removing Cuba from the terror list, which Director General Vidal said was not a precondition but is a priority and would certainly be very difficult to establish diplomatic relations without having that done? And whether you think U.S. embassies – embassies in both countries could be opened before the April 10th Summit of the Americas in Panama.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Thank you. Well, I think our view has been – and we’ve been clear on this – that the two issues are separate. We understand and I appreciated the fact that the Cuban delegation views this as a priority. We view it as important to complete our review, which is still underway, and we have from the beginning believed that we need to do that as quickly as possible. The Secretary made comments today some of you may have seen in which he reiterated that we are going to do that as quickly as we can in accordance with the requirements of the law, but that we see that and the establishment of diplomatic relations as separate processes. So that’s what I would reiterate.
On the timing of this, I do think that we can get this done in time for the Summit of the Americas, and I certainly think that, with the kind of cooperation that we had today, I certainly leave those conversations today optimistic but committed and recognizing the work that still has to be done, but certainly not daunted by the idea that there is a desire to move forward as quickly as we can, and knowing that the summit is a good opportunity if we can get things done in time. (read full information)