Tuesday, July 21, 2015

(Cuba-USA) John Kerry: "There are many, many things where we think we can find the capacity to cooperate"

QUESTION: Do you sense any give at all on human rights, on free elections, on freedom of speech?

SECRETARY KERRY: There’s been a little bit of give, obviously, with respect to some agreement on human rights. And I think that over time the elections discussion and the more pointed human rights issues are going to be very much part of the discussion. They are in every country where we have an embassy and an ambassador. We are fearless in our determination to walk in and talk to the authorities and give them a shared our sense of the problems that exist.

QUESTION: The critics in Congress say they are going to deny the new embassy in Havana money, appropriations, and also, of course, not confirm an ambassador. Does that matter?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it always matters when Congress is sort of stepping in the way of something being able to really be fully effected, sure. But it’s really – why are they going to do that? Are they going to do that because the policy has been so successful? Are they going to do that because they can show so much change that’s taken place in the last 60 years that this is a crazy path? I mean, it just doesn’t make sense to prevent our diplomats from carrying the very message you and I were just talking about. To not be able to meet with more people in Cuba to know what is going on is a huge cutoff of opportunity. So I just think it’s cutting off your nose to spite your face and it’s a shame.

QUESTION: What do you want to see from Cuban now, from the government there? What steps do you want to see?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think we all want to see, first of all, a true, deep engagement, a willingness to work through these issues. There’s so much that we can cooperate on right now. We want to cooperate on law enforcement. There are a lot of issues of concern. We want to cooperate on the environment. We want to cooperate on our visas. We want to cooperate on health, education, the rights of people. We want to cooperate on hemispheric issues and interests like the war in Colombia or the relationship with Venezuela. I mean, there are many, many things where we think we can find the capacity to cooperate, and there are obviously places where we are going to agree to disagree. That is true in lots of countries – in China and Russia and various countries where we have relationships to this day – but we don’t stop those relationships, we don’t pull our ambassador out except in the most egregious circumstances, because we know there’s a value to having an ambassador there. And that’s why we think this is a major step forward.

QUESTION: What was the sense as you met with the Cuban foreign minister? The first time since 1958, the Cuban foreign minister was here in this building. The flag went up at 4 o’clock this morning. Did you have a sense of history? Did he?

SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely, we both had a sense of history, and we shared it and we both understand this is an historic moment. I would be the first secretary of state to visit Cuba, I think, since 1945 or something. I mean, it’s an extraordinary period of time. So this has been too long in the happening, Andrea, and I think we both understand the importance of it to our countries and to the region. (Read full interview with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News at U.S. Department of State's website)

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