Office of the Spokesperson
July 20, 2015

(excerpt) Secretary of State John Kerry Press Availability with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez

Ben Franklin Room
Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY 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.