U.S. Cuba Take Positive Steps Towards Normalizing Relations

On Jan. 22, United States and Cuban officials met in Havana to discuss the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson Jacobson led the American delegation.

Jacobson-Roberta-SThe Cuban delegation was led by the Foreign Ministry’s Director General for U.S. Affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro. The following is an edited version of a release from the U.S. Department of State featuring Jacobson answering questions on the discussions.

Moderator: The first question goes to Daniel Trotta from Reuters.

Question: I’d like to know what are the legal, practical, and political obstacles to establishing diplomatic relations. We know there are a number of differences between the two countries on issues like the Cuban Adjustment Act, fugitives, state sponsors of terrorism, but which of these need to be resolved first? Are any of them holding up a deal, or are you free to take this step today?

Jacobson: … The establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies is just a part of the broader normalization of relations. And in fact, the establishment of diplomatic relations really does not have a checklist or a template that one has to follow every time. It is done by mutual consent of the two countries and it is a relatively
straightforward process, not overly cumbersome, and that is why it will precede many of the other items that will continue as part of the normalization process …

Question: But are there any issues of mutual consent that are getting in the way of a deal today?

Jacobson: … What you have to recognize is that we have, as our presidents have taken the step, to overcome more than 50 years of a relationship that was not based on confidence or trust. So there are things that we have to discuss before we can establish that relationship ...

Moderator: Question is from Karen DeYoung from The Washington Post.

Question: A Cuban official told us that the two sides have, in fact, agreed to use the Vienna Conventions as the basis for the re-establishment of relations. Does that, in fact, under the provisions answer the U.S. concerns about the privileges and protections of U.S. diplomats? And what do you envision to be the sequence of
events and timing leading to the restoration of relations?

And secondly, (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama said … that human rights and freedom of expression would be part of the conversation – part of every conversation with Cuba. What did you say to the Cubans … about that subject and what was their response? Or if you didn't speak about it, what will you say to them … ?

Jacobson: … On the Vienna Convention, I think both sides were very clear that the Vienna Convention does absolutely guide our diplomatic relationship with all countries, and will and should guide our re-establishment of diplomatic relations bilaterally … It is certainly the instrument under which normal diplomatic relations are conducted, and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations are the legal instruments under which we will conduct our diplomatic relations as we re-establish them.

On the second question on human rights – you asked about timeline … On the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, I think that my secretary put it best when he talked about opening an embassy in a timely and appropriate manner. I can’t tell you exactly when that will happen. … We will do that as soon as we can resolve all of the functional issues that we need to address.

On the issue of human rights, the president has spoken to the issue, and certainly that issue remains central to our conversations … We do have differences in that subject, profound differences with the Cuban government, and it was part of the conversation … I think I can say that their response was that they had differences with us on that subject.