MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you very much, Operator, and thanks to everyone for joining us this morning for this background call. This – as I mentioned, this call will be on background attributed – attributable to a senior State Department official. Now, just for your information, the person who will be speaking is [Senior State Department Official], but ask that you use no names or titles, please, for any reporting on this call.
And with that, we will turn it over to our speaker and – for some introductory comments, and then we’ll get to questions. So please go ahead, [Senior State Department Official].
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you, [Moderator]. Good morning everyone. I want to just kick it off with a couple of comments. You all obviously have seen the President’s initiative and watched the last couple of weeks. Let me just emphasize that the President’s initiative recognizes, through a policy of engagement, our belief that we can more effectively stand up for our own values and help the Cuban people themselves through this policy than through the previous decades. The new course is based on a belief that the best way to help bring freedom and opportunity to the Cuban people and to promote our own national security interests, including greater regional stability and economic opportunities for American business, is through this policy.
Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson, as you know, will be in Havana January 21st through the 24th, taking advantage of the planned migration talks which we have twice yearly to launch the discussion with the Cuban Government on diplomatic normalization. In addition to the re-accreditation of our diplomats, we are looking forward to the Cubans lifting travel restrictions, to trying to lift the caps on the number of our diplomatic personnel, to trying to gain unimpeded shipments for our mission, and to the free access to our mission by Cubans.
Normalization, as you know we believe strongly, is not a reward. You can ask governments around the world whether they think having a U.S. diplomatic presence is a reward. But we think having a robust U.S. diplomatic presence is in the U.S. national interest. It’s a better way of advancing those interests and a better way of empowering the Cuban people. The President said on December 17th and I want to reiterate that we’re under no illusions about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans.
We will continue to have significant differences with the Cuban Government. Where we can work together on matters of mutual concern or advance our own interests, we will do so. We’ll continue to press the Cuban Government to uphold its international obligations and to respect the rights of Cubans to peacefully assemble and express their ideas and opinions. We will discuss human rights issues directly with the Cuban Government at the migration and the normalization talks in Havana.
On the ground, the previously scheduled migration talks will begin on the 21st. The normalization talks are scheduled for the 22nd. We’re finalizing the agendas for both of those. And on the 23rd, Friday at 10:30 in the morning , there will be an English and Spanish-language press conference at our chief of mission – our principal officer’s residence in Havana.
So President Obama’s policy changes in Cuba are forward-looking. They emphasize the value of people-to-people contact and relations and increased commerce when that commerce focuses on either information and telecommunications or empowering the Cuban people. They focus on greater communications and respectful dialogue. It’ll enhance our ability to have a positive impact on events inside Cuba and to help improve the lives of the Cuban people.
So with that, let me stop and take your questions.
MODERATOR: Okay. Operator, if you could remind participants how they can lodge a question in the queue.
OPERATOR: Certainly. And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to ask a question, please press the * followed by the 1. You’ll hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed in the queue. If your question gets answered and you wish to remove yourself from the queue, please press the # key. Again, *1.
MODERATOR: Okay. And Operator, I think we’re ready to take the first question. Go ahead.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We’ll go to Andrea Mitchell with NBC News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. First, what is your goal? What is your expectation for what can be achieved in these first few days of talks? Is the expectation that you can come up with an agreement on the number of diplomats, deliveries to the Interests Section, and how far do you hope to get?
And what is the significance – given the political opposition from leaders in Congress, what is the significance of Alan Gross and his wife’s participation as honored guests of the First Lady at the high-profile State of the Union?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well first, Andrea, thank you. And first I would say on the expectations for this conversation in Havana, it’s hard to know exactly what will come out of this first conversation. First of all, I would say I’m not oblivious to the weight of history. It’s been 38 years since somebody at the assistant secretary level went to Havana and 35 years since someone of an equivalent position was in Havana, so it does – it is a big deal, and it’s hard to know exactly how the conversation will go. I’ve outlined briefly, in really sort of a brief way, the kinds of things that we’re going to be raising, because they’re the kinds of things that allow you to have a well-functioning mission and they’re the kinds of things under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations that you hope to be able to establish.
Assuming that those things are agreed to by the Cuban Government, we may not have a huge number of conversations before we are able to move towards embassies, elevating our institutions to embassies. But it’s hard to know exactly what issues the Cuban Government may come to the table with. I would expect that certainly in this conversation we’re able to get on the table all of the things we are interested in and all of the things the Cuban Government is interested in so that we know the parameters within which we’re working. But I’m not going with the expectation of closing all of those issues in this first conversation.
In terms of the Grosses – Judy and Alan Gross – being in the First Lady’s box at the State of the Union, certainly I’m delighted to see that. And I think that the President and First Lady’s – I can’t speak for them, certainly. But I think that it highlights, certainly, the pleasure of the Administration and I think the country in having Alan Gross home after five years in detention that really should not have been. And certainly, it’s a highlighting of the change in the policy after all of this time. So I think it really does point out an American freed and home with his family as he should be. There are other Americans held captive around the world, and so Alan Gross is both a symbol and an individual, but also the change in this policy after 50 years.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. And, Operator, we’re ready for the next question.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go to the line of Pam Dockins with the Voice of Americas. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you and good morning. What are your expectations beyond this week’s talks? Prior to this meeting, the migration talks had, of course, been taking place every six months. What kind of time frame are you looking for after the talks this week? I’m assuming you’ll want to step it up.
And then also, who are you envisioning as being the person who would return for the next talks? Could it perhaps be the Secretary, or someone else?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think, in terms of the engagement that we foresee going forward, we certainly hope that there will be an accelerated pace of engagement beyond this first conversation. You’re right; the migration talks have been taking place since 1995 when we signed the migration agreement with the Cuban Government. And I think that there have been a number of issues that we’ve discussed with the Cuban Government that were in our interest to do so in the past few years – things like oil spill mitigation or counternarcotics cooperation on a limited basis.
Our hope now is to expand the number of areas that it is in our mutual interest to cooperate in. So can we expand counternarcotics cooperation? Can we expand things like global health security or working together on Ebola? We will have a number of areas that I hope that we can expand cooperation and where we would hope experts can get together in the future. Certainly, there are other agencies and offices of the U.S. Government where people are hoping to engage with Cuban counterparts.
But honestly, a lot depends on the willingness of the Cuban Government to engage. One of the things I didn’t really emphasize in my first answer to Andrea on diplomatic engagement is one of the premises of this whole enterprise is diplomatic relations are based on mutual consent, so a lot of the pace of this depends on the Cuban Government. And that really was the point of the President’s initiative, was we are ready to accelerate the pace of engagement as it regards our interests and the Cuban people, but a lot will depend on the tolerance of the Cuban Government for that engagement.
In terms of the Secretary, I guess what I would say is I know that we would see the Secretary’s visit down to Cuba as something that would take place in the future. We don’t know exactly when, but that would depend entirely on how things go after this first visit, where we have to see how things play out and how the conversation goes and how things go on the ground.
MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Operator, we’re ready for the next question, please.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go to Silvia Ayuso with El Pais. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello. Thank you for doing this. I have two very quick questions. The first question is, I’ve read reports that Assistant Secretary Jacobson is planning to meet as well, maybe on Friday, with some Cuban dissidents or the civil society. I was wondering if you can confirm and explain a bit what kind of meeting that would be.
And second, I understand that the main objective in this first round of conversation is re-establishing the diplomatic relations. But there are a lot of questions like what’s going to happen once relations are re-established, like what happens with deportation, et cetera. Is that something that you might already talk this time, or is that something that can – should go into future negotiations? Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: In answer to your first question, I would say that it has always been our practice to engage with civil society, and we hope and expect to do so this time as well, and I really don’t see any need to change that, certainly not after what the President just said is our policy.
The main purpose of this trip is to launch the conversation on reestablishment of diplomatic relations. On the issue of deportations or immigration policy of the United States, that’s not the focus and I don’t think that will be a part of the conversation. I would like to emphasize that there is no plan to change U.S. policy, whether it is the Cuban Adjustment Act which must be changed by Congress, and we have no plans to change that at this point. So we don’t anticipate having that conversation in this first discussion.
MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Next question, Operator.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go to Indira Lakshmanan with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks for doing this. I wanted to ask a little bit in more detail about when you think the normalization process – I know this is just the first set of talks, but do you expect that this is something that will be completed in the next six months, in the next one year? And is your main goal to first just set up the arrangement on exchange of diplomats and the sort of practicalities of having an embassy, or is there like a full agenda that you think would take one year to implement or something like that?
And secondly, what signs have you gotten from the Cuban Government about their willingness to reciprocate on some of the steps that you’ve already taken with regard to trade and travel? And what is your sense of the timeline that would be required to do things like resolve outstanding claims by Cubans living in America?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thanks, Indira. I think – I guess the thing that I would say about normalization is that my guess is — and the truth is every process of normalization with every country is different. If you look back at the processes, whether it’s Kosovo or Burma or Vietnam, they all are slightly different. And frankly, when we looked at doing this moving forward with Cuba, the fact is there is no template per se. Diplomatic relations are restored by mutual consent of two governments, and beyond that you can structure this how you and the other government wish.
So when we look at the normalization, we actually think of it as a process. So we will and are normalizing relations with Cuba, and the fact is that won’t – that will be undertaken over a period of time that I can’t exactly give you an end point of. What I can tell you is that it will start with these – well, it’s started already, in fact, with the two governments and the two presidents having made the decision to do so. These conversations will move that forward. There will be progress, hopefully, in this forum in that conversation that I hope will result in elevation of the Interests Sections to embassies in the relatively short term in the coming months.
And then there will continue to be normalization processes such as, for example, as you raised, the issue of settlement of the claims and any other processes, because those are surely not going to be resolved immediately but they have to be part of normalization. They surely have to be part of what we resolve as two countries become engaged with each other on a more normal basis.
So I think that this is a process, and those are – those are very complicated and there are a lot of them. There is the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission which has reviewed many of those. What the Cubans bring to the table of their own I do not know. So we will undertake a fairly broad collection of complicated issues, some of which will be resolved fairly quickly, I hope, and we will restore embassies and accredit diplomats and all the rest of that, others of which may take much longer.
In terms of the Cuban Government, certainly we’ve seen public statements soon after the President’s announcement about the Cuban Government being very open and willing to talk about everything. But there’s been very little in the way of signals beyond that, and so we obviously look forward to talking and learning more about what their views are and their willingness to push ahead later this week.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. Operator, next question, please.
OPERATOR: We’ll go to Lesley Wroughton with Reuters. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, good morning. I’m wondering – it seems that you – when you say that you haven’t – you don’t really have an agenda, that you’ve pretty much left this open (inaudible) gauge how the Cubans come forward with something. Do you expect them to come forward with something before more things have been talked – are making progress? And also, what would be your gauge of successful talks at the end of this and by Friday? What would you see as – that these are talks that have moved forward in your mind?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, let me start out by saying, Lesley, that – let me be clear. We have a very clear agenda. We know exactly what we’d like to get out of these talks. And I outlined a couple of the items from it at the beginning: unimpeded shipments, access to the U.S. Interests Section by the Cuban people, the accreditation of our diplomats, removing the geographic restrictions on people. The issues like that are – those are what make up our agenda, plus a number of substantive issues on which we’d like to move ahead in various dialogues or expanding dialogues that we have had over the years.
What I don’t know is what the Cubans may be bringing to the table, because right now I will tell you that the agreed upon agenda for the talks themselves are frankly – as these things usually are, they’re fairly broad, right, so each country can put into those broad items the specifics that they wish. And I don’t know yet, obviously, what the Cuban Government may put on the table from their side. As is the case very often in these kinds of negotiations or discussions, I could tell you right now that success I could describe as everybody accepts what we’ve put on the table and doesn’t put anything else on the table – that’s success, we get 100 percent. But I don’t anticipate that, as in most conversations, you get 100 percent of what you want the day you sit down to discuss it. So there are some things that I would anticipate having a discussion on. There may be some things that each of us has to take back to leadership. So it may take another conversation or two before we come to agreement, but we do have an agenda going in. We simply don’t know what may be put on the table by the other side.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. Ready for the next question, Operator?
OPERATOR: We’ll go to Margaret Brennan with CBS News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much for doing this. I have a question as to the timeline here of when you think there may be conversations about extradition between the two countries broadly, and then specifically whether any of the outstanding cases will be coming up. I’m thinking, of course, of some of the Americans who had fled to Cuba in the years prior. Can you just give us, either broadly or specifically, how you think this is going to be addressed and when?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure. Let me start off by saying that the issue of fugitives, quite broadly, is an issue that is on the agenda as part of the migration talks every time we meet. So that is not a new issue for discussion, neither fugitives, nor some limited law enforcement cooperation. And so even during the migration talks and before, we have always discussed some of the people that we wanted returned to the United States. The Justice Department and we worked very closely on these issues. There is frequently, if not always, a Justice Department participant on our migration delegation.
We have said very clearly to congressional members from New Jersey, for example, that the issue of Joanne Chesimard has been raised repeatedly with the Cuban Government. Joanne Chesimard is a fugitive from New Jersey who killed a New Jersey state trooper many years ago but was granted political asylum in Cuba. We would still like her returned, and that’s a high priority for us. But that has not been, unfortunately, something that the Cuban Government has been willing to entertain.
Now, I should also say that over the years, in many areas of fugitives who have fled to Cuba for criminal acts, we have cooperated and people have been returned to the United States. So we would hope to be able to expand some of that cooperation in the future as more normal relations go forward, and to have, frankly, a better relationship on that kind of issue. But it’s something that we have talked about over the years because these are important cases for us, whether they are straight criminal issues or things that the Cuban Government considers political.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question, please, Operator.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go to James Rosen with Fox News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: [Moderator] and [Senior State Department Official], thank you very much for doing the call. First, a housekeeping issue and then two fairly quick substantive questions, if I may: At the top of your remarks, you made reference to there being an English-Spanish language news conference on Friday at 10:30 am at the chief of mission residence. Who will the participants in that news conference be?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That would be Assistant Secretary Jacobson.
QUESTION: By herself? Okay. Okay, so – all right, thanks. Earlier in the call, you assessed for us, and fairly negatively, the statements that have come out of the Cuban Government since the big announcement of the policy shift on how open and willing they are to discuss various issues. And you said that, aside from some earlier statements, you hadn’t seen very much by the way of such signals. I wonder if, in a similar vein – this is my first question – you might assess for us, give us your early reading of what you’ve observed on the part of the Cuban Government since the big announcement of the policy shift in terms of its human rights record.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure. I think, obviously, what we’ve all seen is – to some extent we have seen both kinds of behavior by the Cuban Government. We’ve seen them keep their commitment that Raul Castro announced when he made his announcement on the 17th of December to release 53 political prisoners, people that we had said we were interested in and that he had committed to release. Those 53 have been released, although a couple were detained and then released subsequently. But similarly, when there was a performance artist who wished to have an open mike in Revolution Square, she was denied permission to have that performance, and she and others who wanted to participate in that event were detained and not permitted to exercise their freedom of assembly or freedom of speech. And as I say, other activists were not permitted to meet recently and were detained in order to prevent their ability to assemble peacefully.
So again, as I said at the top, I said we harbor no illusions about this government and their willingness to provide those universal rights, and we’ve seen that policy continue to some extent. And I did not and don’t think the President ever thought that was going to change from December 16th to December 17th, which is why human rights and engagement on human rights and democracy will remain at the center of our policy.
QUESTION: And just the other question I wanted to pursue with you very quickly, again a follow-up to something you said earlier on the call just a few moments ago: You mentioned that the United States, through the vehicle of the migration talks, has repeatedly raised the case of Joanne Chesimard with the Cuban Government. And you stated simply that this was – the return of Ms. Chesimard was something that the Cuban Government has not been willing to entertain, as you put it. I wonder if you could expand for us just a bit on the reaction you have historically gotten from the Cuban Government about Ms. Chesimard, what rationale they put forth for continuing to block her extradition, and whether you’ve been able to observe any changes in the response on the Chesimard case over time, or if it has been just pretty much the same thing repeated each time. Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, all I can tell you is that we have not observed any change in their response on the case of Joanne Chesimard. And I would have to tell you that I can’t give you much more in the way of a rationale because they have not given much more. They have taken the request and they have not really provided much rationale in response to a negative reply.
Beyond that, I think you’d really have to ask the Cuban Government.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. Ready for the next question. I would highlight we’re – we’ve got a little bit of time remaining but not unlimited time, so we’ll try to get through a couple questions as quickly as we can. Next question, Operator.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go to Bill Gibson with The Sun Sentinel. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Just to elaborate on your – the fugitive question: Have the Cubans made any counter-demands, so to retrieve people in this country that they think now or in the past have committed crimes? Has there been a counter-pressure in that regard?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: In the migration conversation — those conversations, not that I can recall other than – certainly in most conversations up until December 17th, they certainly mentioned members of the Cuban Five, when the five Cubans were still in prison for being intelligence agents.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. Next question, please.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go to Luis Alonso with the Associated Press. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, good morning. Many thanks for doing this call. And I would like to ask [Senior State Department Official] if you could please elaborate a little bit on the arbitrations on the claims issue, if you could please give us an update if there has been any movement, any progress so far since December 17? I mean, what this progress is about? Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. Luis, I really can’t, because that is not an issue that we have – there hasn’t been any movement on that issue yet. All I can tell you is that that is an issue where we think, obviously, that does have to be part of normalization. And that’s something that we will ask to be begun as a process, but it is obviously not something that we have begun before we’ve even had conversations with the Cuban Government as we will begin on Wednesday, so – Thursday, rather. So no, there is really no change in that yet.
MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Next question, please.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go to Felicia Schwartz with The Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much for doing this. I just wanted to see how the State Sponsor of Terror designation might affect the formal process of converting the Interests Sections to embassies, if that fits in the timeline at all?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the two things are fairly separate. I will say that the process that we’re undertaking as part of the review of the State Sponsor of Terrorism list is underway. And as you know, that’s a fairly – that’s outlined in the law. There is a process that we undertake, and it begins with a review of all of the evidence and the intelligence. And so that has begun. And the President asked that the State Department undertake that review and complete it with a recommendation to him within six months. We will do so. I don’t, frankly, believe it will take quite as long as six months, but I don’t know exactly when that will be complete. And I certainly wouldn’t prejudge the outcome. But as you know, it has to include both a review of the past six months and whether or not the government has provided any support for international terrorism during that six month period, and then assurances that the government involved will not support international terrorism in the future.
So we will undertake the review and gather all of the data, and then make a recommendation to the President, and then – sorry – then the President will send that information to the Congress before he makes a decision on removal or retention in the list.
MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Next question, please, Operator.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go to Sonia Schott with Diario Las Americas. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you so much for doing this. I would like to know, since you are going to meet with the civil society in Cuba and you know that some people there are really not very happy with the decision to re-establish relation with Cuba, what are you going to tell them?
And my second one, if I may: It is still some other projects – I mean some energy and trade, the exchange in commercial projects with Cuba and other countries in the region – I mean specifically with Venezuela. Do you think that will be a problem for going ahead with the U.S. agenda? Thank you so much.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: On your first question, Sonia, I guess what I would say is it seems to me that there is a diversity of opinion among Cubans on the President’s announcement just as there is a diversity of opinion among Americans, as it should be. If we have the opportunity and as we have the opportunity to talk with Cubans of all backgrounds and political views about the President’s actions, we frankly look forward to taking all of that on board. And every single one of those opinions, it seems to me, is legitimate and is valid and comes from a perspective of authenticity of those living on the island. And we look forward to hearing as much as we can from people on the island about their circumstances and their views. So I actually don’t anticipate any kind of problem or difficulty in having a conversation and in hearing both the negative and the positive views. We welcome that. All of it will be learning and will be positive in the end as we hear the diversity of views.
I guess on the question of energy or Venezuela, I’m not really sure what the question is. Obviously, as we’ve seen in the last few months, the circumstances in Venezuela these days are very critical. The price of oil and the economic situation in Venezuela is dire. Venezuela’s close connection economically to Cuba makes that circumstance in Cuba perhaps difficult, and certainly we hope to empower Cuban citizens – self-employed, entrepreneurs – the ability and the tools to control their own economic future in a way that gives them greater security, greater opportunities, and greater independence. And that seems like it would be coming at a good time and that hopefully people will welcome that.
MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, Operator. The next question – and I think after this one, we’ll have time for just one more. So go ahead, please.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go to Carrie Kahn with NPR. Please go ahead.
Carrie Kahn, NPR, your line is open, if you have yourself on mute.
QUESTION: Hi, sorry. Can you hear me?
OPERATOR: Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello? Yeah, sorry. Thank you so much. I just wanted to follow up on – about the terrorism designation. When was that review initiated? And I know you don’t want to prejudge the outcome, as you said, but in past re-establishment of diplomatic relations – you gave the examples of Burma and Kosovo and Vietnam – what was the experience there and how long did it take? Was that an obstacle to those talks? Because from the Cuban standpoint, we heard Raul Castro dedicate much of his speech to the National Assembly right after the December 17th announcement about the terrorism designation. So it seems like this is going to be a stumbling block for you all.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I guess the first thing I will tell you is – in terms of the process beginning, it began the same day the President made the announcement. Because when the President tells you he wants you to do something in six months, you basically look at your watch and say, “Let’s get started.” So we certainly went to work as soon as the President’s announcement was made.
And it’s not – in many ways it’s not all that complicated. In other words, it doesn’t have a huge number of steps. We have to review all of the facts and go to all of the agencies that might be involved in having information. But we’re going to do this as aggressively as possible and as quickly as possible. And for that reason, I don’t necessarily see there being a real problem in the re-establishment of embassies necessarily being held up by review of the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, because my hope would be that as we do this we will be doing it as quickly as possible and we will have an outcome before we are able to move ahead on embassies.
So I’m pretty optimistic that in timing questions – not in necessarily outcome, but in timing questions – people won’t end up sitting around saying, “Damn, we can’t do anything because the State Department hasn’t finished its job yet.” Now, there is a 45-day period where the President has to submit a report to Congress 45 days before removal from the list, for example, would take effect, if that’s the end result of the recommendation. So there is a sort of waiting period before there’s a removal, if removal is the decision. Nevertheless, if that decision has been made, one could envision other decisions going forward even while that waiting period was taking place. But again, I’m not prejudging that. If the decision was for something to remain on the list, obviously we would have to be looking at something quite different. So I do think that in terms of timing, we will have the data we need to make a decision on how we move forward in enough time.
MODERATOR: All right, thank you. And Operator, if we could take one last question. Go ahead.
OPERATOR: And that will be Barbara Usher with BBC. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Just to clarify on the terrorist list, if the decision is for retention, does that mean diplomatic relations cannot be re-established?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, I didn’t say that. I said that we would obviously have to look at all of our decisions in terms of timing and pace and engagement, but I think the decision to move forward with normalization has already been taken. The President has already made that decision. So I think that that would move forward. But I do think that the process of looking at SSOT is an independent process, and we will do that and as the President has said and as the Secretary has said as well, we will follow the data where it leads us. So I want to be clear about that. But I think in the end, we will work out a way to move forward on the diplomatic side.
MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Let me thank our presenter as well as all participants for joining us for this call today. A reminder: This call is on background attributable to a senior State Department official – no names or titles, please. And we appreciate the interest in the topic, and we’ll – we look forward, then, to the talks later this week. Thanks very much.
1 Time and location of the press conference is subject to change.
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