Kudos to the State Department

Friday, December 17, 2010
From yesterday's Daily Press Briefing with Assistant Secretary of State, P.J. Crowley:

QUESTION: And then also, are you aware of, at any point in the last two years, Raul Castro, through the Spanish, trying to open up a direct dialogue with the White House and him being basically – or the Spanish being told in return that, no, no, he should go – we've made a number of outreach efforts so far, and he should – if he wants to open up a dialogue with – a direct dialogue with the U.S., he should go through the normal diplomatic channels.

MR. CROWLEY: We have made clear to Cuba that, first and foremost, before we would envision any fundamental change in our relationship, it is Cuba that has to fundamentally change, and that we would respond accordingly to any actions that Cuba undertook to release political prisoners, to fundamentally change its political system. That remains our position. But we still continue to engage Cuba on specific issues, such as migration issues, which has a clear humanitarian issue. We have opened up greater opportunities for travel of family members, which is, again, something that – of a humanitarian nature.

But we are – we will consider changes in our relationship only when we start to see a real change on --

QUESTION: Well, this is --

QUESTION: Well, what is dialogue?

QUESTION: Hold – hold on a second. This is not – this a little more narrow than a change in policy. This is just talking about – I mean, this is Castro seeking a direct contact – seeking direct contact with the White House, not necessarily a change in policy.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I'm just – we have an Interests Section in Havana that operates. We do have specific dialogue with the Government of Cuba. And a broader, higher level dialogue is -- will only be feasible once we see real change in Cuba. As we've said, we're prepared to respond as Cuba changes, but we have not seen anything approaching fundamental change in Cuba at this point.

QUESTION: But why is a broader dialogue only feasible once there's a change in Cuba? I thought this Administration and this President campaigned on engagement with one's enemies in order to change the behavior.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, but we engage at an appropriate level where we see an opportunity. We have limited dialogue with Cuba right now on specific issues -- postal issues, migration issues.

QUESTION: These are small technical issues, though. This President –

MR. CROWLEY: I understand.

QUESTION: No, I believe that this President did campaign on engagement with one's enemies or countries that you don't have – that you don't agree with in order to find areas of – further areas of common interest.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we will pursue our national interest. We are willing to pursue engagement. There's no cookie-cutter approach to this. Our approach to Cuba doesn't necessarily have to mirror our approach to Iran, which doesn't necessarily have to mirror our approach to North Korea. We continue to review our policies with respect to Cuba. We have made, over the past 18 months, some changes to allow certain activities to expand. We continue to evaluate how to increase people-to-people contact between the American people and the Cuban people. But in terms of a broader, higher level dialogue, we've made clear we want to see fundamental changes occur in Cuba, and we will respond as those occur.