Secretary Kerry, Statement on Cuba


John Kerry
Secretary of State

Vienna, Austria

July 1, 2015


SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for your patience. In Washington a few moments ago, President Obama announced that we had reached an agreement to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba and that we will reopen embassies in our respective countries.

Later this summer, as the President announced, I will travel to Cuba to personally take part in the formal reopening of our United States Embassy in Havana. This will mark the resumption of embassy operations after a period of 54 years. It will also be the first visit by a Secretary of State to Cuba since 1945. The reopening of our embassy, I will tell you, is an important step on the road to restoring fully normal relations between the United States and Cuba. Coming a quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, it recognizes the reality of the changed circumstances, and it will serve to meet a number of practical needs.

The United States and Cuba continue to have sharp differences over democracy, human rights, and related issues, but we also have identified areas for cooperation that include law enforcement, safe transportation, emergency response, environmental protection, telecommunications, and migration. The resumption of full embassy activities will help us engage the Cuban Government more often and at a higher level, and it will also allow our diplomats to interact more frequently, and frankly more broadly and effectively, with the Cuban people. In addition, we will better be able to assist Americans who travel to the island nation in order to visit family members or for other purposes.

This transition, this moment in history, is taking place because President Obama made a personal, fundamental decision to change a policy that didn’t work and that had been in place not working for far too long. I believe that’s leadership, and I appreciate that leadership. And President Castro felt similarly that it was time for a change. Both leaders agree that concentrating on the issues and possibilities of the future is far more productive than remaining mired in the past. And I would say as we look at the world today with conflicts that we see and even these negotiations taking place here in Vienna, it is important for people to understand that things can change, that leadership can be effective and can make a difference.

This step has been long overdue, and the response of the international community has reflected the relief and the welcoming that people all over the world feel for this step. This step will advance the President’s vision – President Obama’s vision – of an Americas where responsibilities are widely shared and where countries combine their strengths to advance common interests and values. And we, frankly, also believe that this opening will help to change relationships in the region as a whole.

I want to thank Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson and her team, our team at the State Department, together with those at the White House who have worked to lead these discussions with their Cuban counterparts in order to enable the normalization of our diplomatic relations and the reopening of our embassies. I also want to thank the Government of Switzerland for the essential role that they have played in serving as the United States protecting power in Cuba for more than 50 years.

And finally, I want to acknowledge the efforts of many in the United States Congress, the Cuban American community, civil society, faith-based organizations, the private sector, and others throughout our country and beyond who have supported the start of a new chapter of relations between the United States and Cuba. I look forward to meeting again with my Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez, who I saw most recently in Panama, and I also look forward to greeting our embassy personnel and the Cuban people in Havana later this summer. I look forward to taking part in the reopening of our United States embassy and in the raising of the Stars and Stripes over that embassy, and the beginning of a new era of a new relationship with the people of Cuba. Thank you all very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, will American diplomats have free access to talk to people —

SECRETARY KERRY: We’ll talk about all those details later. I’m not going to take questions right now, folks, but I appreciate very much your patience and interest.

QUESTION: Just a few words about the negotiations here today, please.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’ve got to take these away for that. (Laughter.) We are working very, very hard. We have some very difficult issues, but we believe we’re making progress and we’re going to continue to work because of that. Thank you all.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Zarif said there’s no deadline. Is there?

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Is there a deadline, sir?

SECRETARY KERRY: We have our own sense of deadline.